Denethia walked hand in hand with the handsome man who had stolen her heart the first night of the autumn festival. He was dressed in mouse-colored robes, with a comical pointed cap sitting rakishly off-center on his head. A false beard hung from his square chin down to his leanly muscled chest. He carried a fanciful, feather-adorned staff in his other hand, the costume unmistakable as that of a wizard. The garb seemed to suit him well.
Denethia's costume also suited her perfectly — her willowy form wrapped in a white dress, green leaves painstakingly stitched into the hem and neckline by her mother. Her lustrous blonde hair, flowing freely down below her shoulder blades, had flowers and leaves woven in with the golden tresses. A bow and quiver slung over her shoulder, and points made of wax attached to the top of her ears completed the costume. Denethia's friends remarked that one had to look twice to be sure that an elf warrior-maiden did not actually walk amongst them at the festival.
She knew her parents would disapprove of her seeing a man that was ten years or more her senior. The townsfolk whispered amongst themselves whenever the couple passed, as well. None of that mattered to Denethia. Almost from the moment he had introduced himself, her fifteen-year-old heart was his. The previous night of the festival stood out as her most wonderful memory, and this night promised to overshadow even that pinnacle of her life.
She was nervous, of course, walking along nibbling on a sweet with her gorgeous wizard. Darkness was settling over the town, and soon she would be creeping away under the cover of night to discover the wonders between man and woman. Celdin had promised — amid passionate kisses — that he would take her away and remove the mystery surrounding the things boys and girls did off in the shadows when their parents weren't around.
When darkness fully descended, Denethia's heart started to race. Celdin led her ever farther from the flickering torches and bonfires, toward the edge of town and the woods beyond. There amongst the trees, in the light of the full moon, Celdin would make love to her.
As they walked toward the trees, Denethia's nerve nearly failed her. Despite her excitement, and the tingling between her legs, the cold fingers of fear gripped her heart as well. Cloaked in darkness, the woods looked foreboding indeed. She remembered the stories about this night, when the veil between this world and the dark was thin — and that only caused the trees to appear even more sinister in her eyes. The adults all warned their children that this was a night when evil sought to smother the light, and thus the festival had started to counter that black power. Celebration and shared generosity kept the darkness at bay, saving the world from a fate unimaginable.
A squeeze of his hand, and a smile, soothed Denethia's fears. In the face of that smile, and anticipation of what was to come, feelings of love and arousal smothered all thoughts of evil spirits and black magic. She smiled back, and they stepped onto the trail leading into the forest.
It was not the pleasures of the flesh that greeted Denethia in the woods, however, but the cold flesh of the walking dead. The clammy hands covered her mouth before she could scream, and held her tight so she could not run. Terror and the stink of death overwhelmed her, and Denethia slipped into unconsciousness. Her last thought before she fainted was to wonder why Celdin was just standing in front of her, watching the dead take her captive.
Denethia cringed and trembled, her skin covered in gooseflesh. Though the air of the cavern — her prison — was cold, and tinged with the stench of corrupt flesh, it had nothing to do with the chill that permeated her body. Buried now, deep in the bowels of the world, for five years, she barely noticed the mundane chill seeping from the stone any longer.
The frigid bite of the spell's mastery rushed through her, filling her with a perverse mixture of revulsion and accomplishment. She despised her study of Necromancy, the magic of death, but it was only through mastery of those foul spells that she continued to live. Although her life now was one of hopeless despair, Denethia could not face the price of failure. Death would be only the beginning of her eternal torment if the Master decided she was of no use to him.
More disturbing still was the fact that some part of her rejoiced in the power she had just attained. Magic burned brightly in her blood, as it did in all of her line. Her soul sang in exaltation, even as it screamed in torment.
Denethia slumped as the sensation faded, her tangled blonde locks falling to hide her face, and her chin coming to rest on the stained canvas smock she wore. She sucked in short, gasping breaths, trying to draw air into her deprived lungs, having involuntarily held her breath as her body reacted to the mastery of the magic.
Placing her hands on the rough stone table, carved from the rock by the tireless hands of the undead, Denethia raised her head and opened her brown eyes once again. All around her, the others continued their studies, their faces masks of concentration. They knew as well as she the cost of failure. None of her fellow prisoners acknowledged her as she stood, picked up the scroll before her, and climbed back over the bench behind her.
Walking around the table, her legs and bottom aching from sitting on the hard stone for hours, Denethia made her way toward the Master's desk at the back of the chamber. The sickly green light of the magical globes that chased back the darkness almost seemed to retreat from Celdin, seated at his desk engrossed in his own studies.
He sensed her approach and looked up, hints of a smile twitching his lips. She had to fight the urge to turn away from the piercing stare of his dark green eyes, and yet she had to battle the attraction to him as well.
Denethia bowed her head and held the scroll out in front of her when she reached the Master's desk. The desk that was the Celdin's throne was a masterpiece in granite, covered in intricate carvings depicting death and the undead. Directly in front of her eyes was a carved scene of a skeleton ripping open a pregnant woman's womb to drag out the unborn babe. Her stomach rebelled, and she closed her eyes tight while awaiting the Master's pleasure.
"You have learned the spell," Celdin said. It was not a question, just a confirmation of what he already knew. His deep, cultured voice was the same one that had stolen her heart as a girl, but now it aroused fear in Denethia.
"Yes, Master," she responded, not looking up or opening her eyes.
She could hear his chair sliding back across the stone, and knew he was rising. "Come," he instructed as he took the scroll from her hands.
Denethia followed, her eyes cast downward at the hem of his black satin robe swishing over the dark stone below. The sound of his heels echoed throughout the chamber, a sharp contrast to the sound of his bare-footed slave behind him. When he stopped at an ironbound door, she again closed her eyes and tried to master her fears. The spell he expected her to demonstrate in mere moments was difficult, and the thought of the results made her skin crawl.
The door opened, and a wall of cold air slammed into Denethia. Even colder than the rest of the cavern, it also carried a charnel house stench that brought the taste of bile to her mouth. Celdin proceeded into the room, and she followed without hesitation, knowing the consequences of a pause.
When the Master stopped and turned, she raised her eyes once again. Lying upon the bloodstained limestone bier was a corpse. Stiff and obviously long dead, the body was covered in bruises, and bones pressed against the flesh of the unfortunate victim's throat, evidence the young man's neck had been broken. The body was nude, and somehow that indignity offended Denethia even more than the marks of his violent death.
Sitting next to the corpse was a wooden bowl, which contained all the spell components she would need to cast the spell she had mastered minutes earlier. Picking up the bowl, Denethia took a deep breath of the reeking air, and began the dark ritual.
She traced the final sigil upon the chest of the corpse, her finger coated in the mixture of blood and ash required by the spell. It was all Denethia could do to maintain her composure as she drew the runes on the body, fighting the urge to recoil from the clammy flesh beneath her fingertip.
Putting down the bowl, Denethia chanted the magical phrases that would culminate the spell. Celdin looked at the sigils drawn upon the corpse, and nodded approvingly as his unwilling apprentice intoned the harsh, guttural syllables of the death spell.
Denethia spoke the final word in a loud voice. She was so lost in the gathering power of her magic that the dark nature of the spell lost all meaning before a wave of anticipation. In the face of that power responding to her call, she could not help but feel a sense of triumph.
The corpse lurched as if hit by a great blow to the chest, then began to twitch, arms and legs moving randomly, resembling a puppet with tangled strings. Denethia could feel a connection to the horrific caricature of life. Instinctively, she knew she could command it and sense what was going on around it, even at a great distance. The creature's lurching hurled it from the bier to land at her feet, though the movements of the body were becoming more coordinated by the moment.
"Command it to stand," Celdin ordered.
She concentrated, utilizing her connection to the animated corpse to command its actions. The random, jerky movements of the creature smoothed as the connection to her mind gave it direction. Slowly, it rose to a standing position, head lolling backwards on its broken neck.
The Master smiled and said, "Very good." He then began to chant the words of a spell, and when it was completed, Denethia felt the line of power connecting her to the creature snatched away. The walking corpse belonged to her Master now, even as she did. Though her stomach was sour, and her senses screamed in disgust, Denethia felt a sharp pang of loss as the connection to her creation was wrested from her.
The corpse turned and walked away, following the orders of its new Master, going to join the other animated dead that stood still as statues in a tightly packed group at the back of the frigid chamber.
"Come," Celdin instructed, and Denethia followed. They left by the same door they had entered, but turned left instead of right in the corridor beyond that portal. Walking into an area declared forbidden to her, fear gripped Denethia's heart as her Master led into the unknown.
Keeping her eyes lowered, again watching the hem of her Master's robe, she clenched her teeth and fought the urge to run. Here, new most often meant more horrific. He opened another thick door, and again Denethia followed when he passed through the portal.
The floors here were not the natural stone of a cavern, but were instead smooth, worked by the hands of man — or magic. Curiosity got the better of her, and she glanced up slightly to the side, seeing walls smooth and worked like the floor. They passed numerous doors as they walked down the hall, but the Master continued to walk at a brisk pace, ignoring them.
They passed through a wide doorway, and Denethia realized that here the stench of death was far weaker than she had known since her imprisonment. Celdin stopped, and Denethia stiffened involuntarily, preparing for any number of new horrors to be introduced into her existence.
The Master turned and placed his hand beneath her chin, raising her eyes to his, "Congratulations, Denethia. You have now earned the right to leave the squalid conditions of your novitiate. I accept you as my apprentice."
Denethia knew the appropriate response; it had been impressed upon her many times over the years, "Thank you, Master."
Celdin turned to a dark-haired woman in black satin robes, "Kyleria, see that she is bathed and dressed appropriately, and then inform her of the conditions under which she now serves."
"Of course, Master," the woman responded in a deep sultry voice.
He left then without another word, leaving Denethia to absorb the sights of her new surroundings. The room appeared to be carved from the solid rock, the walls lined with bookshelves, filled to capacity with scrolls and books. Study tables — each with their own magical light hovering overhead — filled the floor of the room.
She had always dreamed of this, studying magic under a Master in a school full of others who shared the gift. Her parents had never been able to afford formal instruction, but they had always promised Denethia she would have what they had been denied.
Now, her dream was a nightmare.
Always an obedient and considerate girl, the lesson she learned from her first rebellious mistake would now follow her until the end of her days. She would not study under a kindly old graybeard — one who nurtured her talent and praised her success — but a cruel taskmaster that forced her to use her ability for dark purposes.
Every time she felt the rush of exaltation that came with learning a new spell, it was immediately followed by pangs of regret and revulsion. As repugnant as the death magic was, her soul screaming in triumph as she mastered the spells was more troubling by far.
Kyleria interrupted Denethia's musings, saying, "Come, let us get you out of those rags and into a bath."
She wanted to talk to the older woman, perhaps making a friend who could help her forget the truth of her imprisonment here, but she was afraid. Kyleria was obviously high in her Master's favor, and Denethia feared that the woman might be just as cold-hearted as he.
Nodding her head to indicate she understood, Denethia followed the dark-haired woman out of the study room. Thinking about the opportunity to bathe after weeks of being denied the privilege lifted her spirits — but only for a moment.
The blood on her hands and the stain on her soul could not be washed away by mere water.
Celdin, master of these dark caverns, and a Necromancer of the highest order, watched Kyleria lead Denethia into the room containing the bathing pool. The magical mirror allowed him to follow her, and study her in great detail as she disrobed in preparation to wash the filth from her fair skin.
The woman moved with a natural grace that complimented her petite form. He watched her with rapt attention, as she pulled the stained smock over her head to reveal her body. Her small breasts stood out firm and proud, crowned by the slightly darker circles of her areolas and protruding nipples. A frown crept onto Celdin's face when he saw the darkened tangle of hair on Denethia's mound. Eventually, should she prove worthy, something would have to be done about that.
As Denethia turned to step into the bathing pool, Celdin admired the taut curves of her backside, rising and falling in an arousing dance with her every move. The young woman sank into the pool with a great sigh of relief, leaning back to soak her hair, resulting in her breasts teasingly breaking the surface of the water.
Celdin continued to watch her as she bathed, the young woman's beauty emerging from beneath the layers of accumulated filth. His manhood erect and throbbing, Celdin knew the woman was going to be difficult to resist. He had known as much when he had taken her as a girl, and she had blossomed into a woman since that time.
He heard Kyleria enter, but did not acknowledge her presence. She knew why she was here, and she would be prepared when he was ready. Celdin smiled, knowing Denethia had taken her first step today. He had seen the ecstasy on her face when her magic brought life to the corpse on the bier. Likewise, the pain of losing control of her creation had been unmistakable in her face. The years waiting for that sign — the indication that the alluring woman was succumbing to his dark instruction — had been torturous. He desired her as he had no other woman, but until her will shattered, allowing the darkness into her soul to consume her, she was a danger. He dared not submit to his desires until the light of her purity dimmed to a pale flickering ghost of its former strength. Only when she was broken would he snuff that final flicker, drowning it in his darkness. Then, she would truly be his, forevermore.
When Denethia stepped from the pool to dry her body, Celdin banished the magic of the mirror. Turning, he saw Kyleria kneeling on the floor behind him, her lush body bare and anticipation lighting her eyes.
Standing and removing his robes, Celdin was prepared to give her what she desired.
Little in Denethia's life changed over the course of the following year. Her living conditions improved, but otherwise Celdin still expected her to absorb as much of the dark magic as she could manage, or face harsh punishment. Wearing clean satin robes, bathing and eating regularly, and having her own room with a bed instead of a pallet in a common sleeping chamber did nothing to dull the reality of her enslavement.
Gone were the days of simple hunger and filth that had served as punishment for failure during her novitiate. Now pain and humiliation served as a reminder that Celdin demanded constant progress. Three times in the last year, Celdin ordered Denethia to go about her day nude for failure to meet his expectations. Each time, she bore the welts of his whip on her backside as well. Though the two male apprentices stared at her body with lust, they knew better than to do more than look. The hunger in the men's eyes was frightening, yet more painful still was her body reacting to that hunger.
Forbidden by the Master to pleasure herself, Denethia lay awake many nights with an ache in her sex that was near maddening. The protective walls of indifference she surrounded herself with failed in the face of her arousal. Each time, she fell asleep exhausted from weeping, with the musky scent of her need hanging heavily about her, mocking her with its power.
Through her magic, Denethia learned to raise the dead as skeletons and zombies. She spoke with spirits, bending them to her will through her Art. Disease and decay were hers to command. Each day she grew more powerful in the dark magic, and each day she turned more inward. Like a puppet, she performed the tasks required thoughtlessly, because the horror of her actions was too difficult to bear otherwise.
She absorbed the knowledge of her black studies, discovering the means to create even the powerful, intelligent undead such as vampires. The strengths and weaknesses of those unliving creatures fell into place within her mind, preparing her to combat or command them.
The instruction concerning the nature of liches in Celdin's works showed that he abhorred the creatures, powerful wizards who sacrificed their own lives with a potion for the power of undeath. Only the strongest necromancers could hope to survive the transformative powers of the potion, to rise again in three days as creatures feared by all. Denethia shuddered reading about these obsessed beings, wondering how anyone could choose to snuff out their own life in the pursuit of power — even ultimate power second only to the gods.
This night, six years to the day since her capture and enslavement, Denethia sensed she was again at a threshold, a time of change similar to her elevation from novitiate to apprentice a year earlier. Outside, in the world now denied her, people laughed and celebrated. Dressed in fanciful costumes, feasting upon sweets, and drinking far more than was good for them, the people beyond the rocky walls of her prison rejoiced in the harvest. The harvest festival was a buffer against the coming winter, a time of freedom and merriment to carry through the cold months ahead.
Denethia marked the turning of the seasons not with festivity, but with blood. Her only costume was the black robes of evil that she donned each morning without thought. Instead of the sweet taste of chocolate, the rancid stench of death coated her tongue from the thick miasma surrounding her.
Once again, she stood in the frigid, reeking room of stone biers and corpses. Lying upon the bier before her this time was the body of a child. Dirt clinging to his small form revealed that the Master's unliving servants had pulled the child from the earth, rather than taking his life by violence. A rude loincloth, which appeared to have been fashioned from his torn funeral shroud, girded the boy's hips.
Yet another reason for the celebration in the world above was that dark power was strong on this night. The gaiety and positive energy helped hold the night at bay, protecting those who participated from the touch of evil. It was also why Celdin had chosen this night to take her so many years ago, and to test her now.
"Cast the spell," the Master ordered, a note of anticipation Denethia had never heard from him before evident in his voice.
Denethia cast the black spell, feeling the bond to the small corpse form instantly upon its completion. Unlike the zombies she had animated previously, the boy's body did not begin lurching violently on the bier. Instead, the corpse trembled as if shaken by an inner quake. Although she knew the expected results of her magic, and fought to maintain a cold, clinical detachment from the sight, Denethia was still horrified as she watched it unfold.
The boy's arms and legs elongated with audible cracks, his dead flesh flowing in nauseating ripples as the transformation took place. His face, innocent and serene, twisted into an animalistic cast. When the corpse opened its mouth, it revealed elongating, sharply pointed teeth. Yellow claws pushed out from the now larger fingers and toes of the body, and the boy's flesh changed to the yellowed color of old parchment.
The transformation complete, the ghoul immediately sprang with unnatural speed to crouch on the bier, a guttural growl emerging from its gaping maw and spittle dripping down the creature's chin. It sniffed at the air, hungry for human flesh, restrained from attacking its creator and her Master only by the reins of power Denethia held in her hands.
Her skin tingled, and she closed her eyes, feeling the control over the creature that was hers to command. Far stronger than the zombies and skeletons she had raised before, there was a faint hint of intelligence in this creature, once the body of a child. She could feel the strength in the creature's limbs, aching to be released in ravaging fury. She could feel its hunger and frustration, starving for her flesh but denied its feast by her command of the magic. She opened her eyes and ordered the ghoul to extend its hands to the side, yellow-clawed fingers stretched wide. She wondered how far the creature could leap on its powerful legs — how fast it could run in pursuit of its prey.
"Excellent," Celdin declared, and then cast the spell that would wrest control of the ghoul from Denethia, and bestow that power upon him.
As always, the sense of loss shot through Denethia when her Master's spell was complete, stealing her creation from her. This time, it also brought the realization that she had been enraptured with her power over the twisted flesh-eater. Her face pinched tight into a disgusted expression, self-loathing consuming her.
The creature loped off at Celdin's command, to join its own kind elsewhere in the dark caverns and await further instructions.
"You have proven yourself worthy," Celdin announced. "Now, you shall have the reward due you for your labors. Come!"
Denethia followed, hardly looking forward to any reward this man might be preparing to bestow upon her. In truth, she dreaded the thought of what he might consider a reward. All the while, she struggled with the satisfaction she had felt in raising the ghoul — and the fact that the feeling still lingered within her. Try as she might to push back the euphoria, it refused to go away. Her pulse pounded in her ears and her stomach churned, her lips constantly twitching toward a smile that sickened her.
As had occurred a year before, Denethia was led through a door declared forbidden to her previously, into a featureless room containing only a waist-high stone pillar surmounted by a stout wooden box.
Denethia winced when Kyleria shut the door and walked past her, because she had not noticed the woman approaching through the door behind her. The dark-haired woman carried a small silk pouch and a large earthenware bowl half filled with water.
Celdin smiled and ordered, "Disrobe."
Denethia shed her garments without hesitation, knowing that the price of disobedience was far greater than that of mere failure.
Staring at the thick tangle of hair on Denethia's mound, Celdin ordered, "Tame that bramble patch, Kyleria."
The elder apprentice bowed and immediately approached Denethia, kneeling before her and putting down the bowl of water. From the silk bag emerged scissors and a razor. Denethia's face burned as the other woman knelt before her sex, and the heat intensified when Kyleria laid a hand on Denethia's thigh.
Denethia bore the humiliating touches as Kyleria first trimmed her patch of hair, and then sculpted it into a triangle above her sex with the razor. What followed was even more embarrassing, as Kyleria manipulated Denethia's labia, shaving them baby smooth. Once Kyleria rinsed away the remaining loose hair, she stood and bowed to her Master once again.
Denethia stood with her face burning, and her sex tingling. Despite the fact it was another woman touching her, she had experienced arousal from the touch. Denethia had spent six years now forbidden to pleasure herself, and the touches were like water to a thirst long unquenched.
"You may leave," Celdin ordered Kyleria.
With a final bow, the other woman left, closing the door and leaving Denethia alone with her Master once more.
Celdin approached, the disarming smile he had worn so long ago to steal her heart decorating his face. "You have flowered, Denethia. You are even more beautiful and arousing than you were the first day I saw you." Standing now before the trembling woman, he reached out to cup her right breast, "And you are far more powerful than I could have ever imagined."
Revulsion for her torturer warred with desire caused by his touch in Denethia's heart. She stood silently, enduring his caress. Even if the Master had given her leave to speak, Denethia did not believe she could have.
Removing his hand from her taut flesh, his smile grew wider upon seeing her nipples harden from his touch. "You have reached a new plateau, Denethia, and now you shall become one of the elite, as has Kyleria. Power and pleasure beyond your wildest dreams will now be yours. Come."
Denethia followed her master to the pillar, and his upraised hand instructed her to remain in front of it while he crossed to the opposite side to open the box. From within, he withdrew a chalice carved of bone-white ivory, and a knife with a blade as black as night.
Celdin approached Denethia with the items, his eyes staring intently into hers. She trembled, unable to suppress the reaction to the dark magic surrounding those two simple items. The black blade was ominous enough, but the aura of power that radiated from it was overwhelming. The part of her soul tainted by her use of the black magic surged strong within her in the face of the items' power, dark calling to dark, and she was helpless to resist it.
Celdin stopped before her and spoke, his tone grave, "You must accept your new service, Denethia. Will you join with Kyleria and the others as apprentices in my highest favor? The rewards for your acceptance are power, pleasure, and autonomy. You shall be free to pursue your studies at your leisure, save when I require specific tasks or studies. You will no longer be bound to this place, but may venture forth into the world once more, within limits. You may speak freely."
Denethia swallowed hard, and then took a deep breath before she spoke, "If I refuse?"
The Master's expression darkened, "I will be greatly disappointed, should that occur. You show great promise in the Art, and it would be a shame for that promise to go unfulfilled."
Although Celdin had not truly answered her, Denethia knew the answer implied in his words. Refusal would mean death, and worse. He would trap her soul, forever denying it passage into the next life. Celdin would use her soul to fuel his dark magics, while her body would serve him as the undead.
She had little choice. Death was no escape from the torments Celdin could offer. Refusal meant unending torment, while acceptance and obedience would at least offer her a chance of escaping this life with his blessing in the future.
She spoke the words reluctantly, though within her the darkness sang them in a joyful chorus, "I accept my service, Master."
Celdin let out a satisfied sigh, and Denethia thought she detected a note of relief in the sound as well. "The pain from the ritual that bonds you to my service is minor, and fleeting. You shall soon forget it, I assure you. Stand firm. Prove to me your dedication and your power."
Raising the blade before him, Celdin chanted the words of his black spell. The aura of power around the knife intensified, becoming visible as a dance of shadows about the blade. Denethia found her eyes drawn to the weapon, unable to look away. Only when he ceased to chant was the spell over Denethia broken. Celdin turned the knifepoint toward Denethia and stepped forward, placing the tip against the firm flesh of her left breast.
The knife pierced her skin, and she stiffened. Celdin drew the knife downward, further opening the wound, and moved the chalice beneath her breast. Grasping her head, Celdin guided Denethia to lean forward. She could not help but watch with morbid fascination as her lifeblood dripped in a dribbling stream from her nipple into the chalice.
When her blood completely obscured the bottom of the chalice, Celdin placed the flat of the black blade over the wound in her breast. She felt a sharp stab of icy pain from the touch. When he removed the blade, her breast was whole, although still stained by her blood.
Stepping back, the Master placed the chalice and knife on the pillar, and then shed his robes. Denethia's face burned — and her sex tingled — when Celdin revealed his manhood. It was long, thick, and fully erect, drawing Denethia's eyes as if by magic to linger upon it.
Celdin again picked up the knife and chalice, this time turning the weapon upon his own chest. His blood flowed from the wound to join Denethia's in the chalice. Denethia noticed a scar upon his chest, evidence that this was not the first time he had performed this dark ritual.
Once his wound closed through the magic of the blade, Celdin cleaned the knife and placed it back in the box. He then withdrew a bottle of wine from within, and filled the chalice. Returning the bottle to the box, Celdin took up the chalice in both hands and started to chant.
Denethia's skin prickled with gooseflesh as he intoned the words of the spell, and she felt her hair stand on end. A ruddy glow emerged from the top of the chalice, eventually growing so bright that it shone through the sides of the cup. Far more frightening than the ritual was her own scent, the sharp and obvious fog of arousal filling her lungs with every breath. She longed to taste their mingled blood, and to feel his pulsing manhood enfolded in her virgin embrace — fulfilling the promise he had made to her so many years ago.
Celdin spoke the final words of the spell in an unnaturally loud voice, and then jerked as the power came into being. Denethia shivered, feeling fingers of the magic caressing her body across the distance between them.
Once again, the Master approached her. Holding the chalice before him, he looked into Denethia's eyes, and whispered, "And so we shall be joined." Celdin then brought the chalice to his lips and drained half of the contents with a shudder.
Denethia's teeth chattered as he lowered the cup, a drop of the blood-red liquid running from the corner of his mouth down to his chin. Celdin's face was a mask of ecstasy, his eyes rolled up, and his head thrown back slightly. When he looked at her again a moment later, there was hunger in his eyes.
Holding the chalice out to Denethia, he ordered, "Drink."
Denethia took the cup in her trembling hand and brought it to her lips. She was determined to drink the contents quickly, not tasting it if she could help it, and to deny the part of her that wanted to savor every drop. The moment the liquid touched her tongue, the metallic tang of blood filled her senses. The liquid was warm, almost to the point of being hot, as it slid down her throat and settled in her stomach. Denethia gasped when she drained the last drop of the potion, Celdin steadying her hand to ensure she did not drop the chalice.
She could feel the hot liquid roiling in her stomach. The feeling was not one of nausea, but rather akin to the fluttering sensation that she had experienced walking toward the woods with Celdin those many years ago. She closed her eyes and sucked in short, sharp breaths while the Master placed the chalice back upon the pillar.
He was approaching her again when her eyes opened. Almost immediately, her gaze fell upon his erection, which twitched as if in acknowledgment of the look. She could feel the wetness gathering between her legs as well, as the potion in her stomach spread warmth throughout her body.
Denethia held her breath as Celdin placed a hand on the back of her head, and two fingers under her chin, tilting her head up toward him. Leaning down, he kissed her.
She stiffened as her entire body came to life under his touch. The warmth that infused her turned to a consuming fire, mingled with jolts of electricity shooting from her spine to the tips of her fingers and toes. Her nipples hardened to turgid points, and her sex tingled with a thousand pinpricks of pleasure, from her swollen clit to her deepest depths. She started to tremble, her knees growing weak and wobbling — and then she came.
Moaning into his kiss, Denethia felt wetness running down her thighs, an eruption of juices the likes of which she had never before experienced. Untouched save for his kiss, she was shuddering from a more powerful orgasm than she could have ever imagined. He groaned as well, and Denethia felt the hot spurts of his thick cream spattering against her body.
Blackness swept over Denethia, her legs losing all strength beneath her. Dimly, she realized Celdin was supporting her and lowering her safely to the floor below, and then she knew no more.
Denethia awoke with a sharp gasp, curling to clutch her sex in her hand. The orgasmic sensation faded quickly, a product of her dreams and memories. Uncurling, she panted for breath and took in her surroundings.
She was back in her room, in her own bed. The blood trails were gone from her breast, and the evidence of her orgasm — and Celdin's — was absent as well. Sitting up, a profound hunger and thirst struck Denethia, as if she had not eaten for days.
The door to her room opened only moments later, and Celdin walked in, smiling. Seeing her awake, he exclaimed, "Twenty hours — remarkable! You are truly gifted to have awakened so quickly. Kyleria slept for three days before she recovered from the joining."
Turning, he signaled to Kyleria, who stood behind him in the doorway to Denethia's room. The woman bowed and left immediately at his unspoken command.
"Can you feel it, my Denethia?"
Denethia's brow wrinkled at first, not knowing what her Master was asking.
Then she felt it.
Denethia could feel a link to her Master, and through him, a link to the undead creatures he controlled. She knew that she could command the dead to obey her, as if they were her own creations. Likewise, she could feel a connection to the woman Kyleria — and other women that were unfamiliar to her.
"Yes, Master," Denethia replied once she understood his question, still reaching out with her mind to touch each of the unliving servants, feeling the power that was hers to command.
The smile on his face grew wider, "Excellent, you are truly well-suited to serve me as one of my elite. There are restrictions to your new freedoms inherent in the joining as well, however."
Celdin's voice took on an obvious note of command, "We are bound, for so long as we both shall live. You will not use your Art or any mundane weapon to strike at me or any other who serves me, save when I order you to take such action. Likewise, you shall not conspire to have others act against me, or the others who serve me. You will maintain your studies, advancing your knowledge, and obey all of my commands without question. Refusal will mean pain — and worse — beyond anything you could possibly imagine. Obedience will bring you pleasure, power, and reward in my service."
Denethia could feel the compulsion present in his words, and knew she was bound by the magic of the joining to obey the commands he had just given her, and any he chose to give her in the future, until the day one of them died.
Her voice quavered slightly when she replied, "I understand, Master." The enormity of her new bondage tore through her blissful exploration of her power, fanning the flame of her soul back to life again. Denethia was horrified by how low it had burned, flickering and threatening to wink out. She had nearly turned her back on the light forever, feeling the vast power now at her command.
His tone softened once more, "Good. Kyleria will return momentarily with food and drink, that you may break your fast. You will likely need to rest further to recover before attempting to return to your studies. After two days time, you should be recovered sufficiently to endure the first tests, and enjoy your first reward of service. I shall see you then, Denethia."
Denethia found that Celdin's predictions proved true, and she did spend much of her time in bed for two days. When she awoke the third morning, the memory that tests awaited her this day stole away the relief of her renewed strength.
Celdin swept into the room shortly after Denethia had dressed, smiling and ordering her, "Come, it is time for your testing."
She followed her Master to his private study, yet another forbidden place within the cavernous complex beneath the earth. Once inside, he turned to her and said, "Sense the dead through me. You seek the one that was your first success. You will feel the touch of your magic upon the creature, in addition to my own. You should recognize the creature, and know it from all the others. Command it to come here."