The plains of what will be called North America — 1200 A.D.
Laresa and Nathifa sat together, sewing fur into new garments for the coming winter. Although Nathifa delighted in the simple work, Laresa was not quite as enamored of it, and frequently cheated with her magic whenever her auburn-haired friend was not looking.
The fact that Laresa could use her magic at will, for something as simple as making clothing, warmed the Djinn's heart. Although still technically a slave to the ring, Nathifa had wished for Laresa to decide her own fate, and her own actions. Never since her rebirth had the silvery-haired genie known such freedom. Having only been recently freed from the shackles of the Djinn, Nathifa simply could not abide the thought of owning someone, as she had been owned.
So, for the first time in centuries, Laresa controlled her own fate. She could come and go as she pleased, do as she wished, and never did her Mistress ask anything of her. Even when a dire need arose, Nathifa refused to ask for Laresa's magical assistance.
Laresa was still connected to her Mistress through the ring, however, and she could sense when Nathifa was worried or out of sorts. Whenever Nathifa felt something was needed, Laresa stepped in happily with her powers and made it so.
Thus, the tribe prospered. Where many other tribes had found the harvest this year lean, and the game thin, the tribe the two women had adopted knew only bounty. When it was dry, Laresa brought rain. When the floods came, Laresa turned the raging waters away from the village and their food source. When someone sustained an injury, or fell ill, the beautiful Djinn made them whole.
The people believed that they were favored of the spirits, as exemplified by their good fortune, and by the two unusual women amongst them. Though the tribe related to them as natives of the village, they could hardly ignore that the pair of women were different, and quite striking in appearance. Their hair alone marked them as unusual among the universally dark-topped people.
Laresa was known as Moon in Her Hair, a reference to her silvery locks. Nathifa's native name came from her hair, and her beautiful, gentle voice — Firetop Bird. Both women were more than a little amused by the amount of attention the young men of the tribe paid to them. Laresa had thus far remained a bit distant from the men's advances, as she could not bear them children, and thought it unfair to steal attentions from other women seeking mates. Simply being able to choose to do so was also empowering, and something Laresa had rarely known in her long centuries as a genie.
Nathifa had done much the same, until Sees With a Hawk's Eye had caught her eye. Laresa knew that her friend did not realize that she was paying attention to Hawk, but it was true nonetheless. It was easy enough for Laresa to understand why, because he was a magnificent example of manhood, with a good heart. She had felt her own body stir when looking at him many times, but Nathifa lost contact with everything but the sight of him, and his voice, whenever he was near.
Right now, it didn't take much to fan Laresa's flames of arousal. She avoided the men, so as not to disappoint them, and Nathifa still felt uncomfortable about her attraction to the Djinn, and other women in general. Laresa had felt her friend's emotions surging many times, but always Nathifa had backed away before releasing the pent up passions within her — at least with anyone else. The scent, sound, and thoughts coming from Nathifa, as the young woman masturbated in the night, were near maddening to Laresa.
Every day, Laresa fought the feeling deep inside her that she didn't really belong. She was determined, despite her recently tumultuous emotions, to enjoy her new freedom. For the most part, she succeeded, although that made the moments when the melancholy assaulted her feel even darker by comparison.
One of the young braves appeared on the hill, moving toward the village at a brisk pace. Laresa noticed him, and sensed something was wrong from the determined look on his face. Nathifa saw the concentration in Laresa's features, and turned to see what had attracted the Djinn's attention.
The brave consulted with another, older man, whose face then took on the same concerned cast. Others approached, and they too conferred. Then the first brave, and the first man he had spoken with left the group, moving quickly toward where the Chieftain sat, watching his grandchildren at play.
"I wonder what is going on," Nathifa pondered.
"They look worried," Laresa added.
Noticing a new arrival in the group that still stood gathered near the edge of the village, Nathifa stood and said, "I will go ask Hawk."
The faintest hints of a smile touched Laresa's lips. "You will remember to come back and let me know what he has to say, I trust?"
"Of course," Nathifa replied with a slightly confused expression.
"I'll be waiting."
Nathifa smiled and started in Hawk's direction. Laresa shook her head, wondering how the woman could be so smitten, and not even realize it herself. Finishing a final stitch on her garment, Laresa sighed. Although she was happier than she had been in a long time, seeing Nathifa living a life of true freedom was painful at times.
Laresa stiffened when she felt Nathifa's worry. That was all the incentive necessary for Laresa to stand up, and go join her friend to find out what was going on firsthand.
"Are we in danger?" Nathifa was asking Hawk as Laresa approached.
He shook his head, "No, we do not even know that what Rushing Wind saw was one of those who dwell outside the light. Even if it is, we are forewarned, and will be prepared, should this be more than a single dark one within this land."
"But, you are troubled," Nathifa countered.
Hawk smiled, "The thought of doing battle is troubling, even with those who know only darkness. We are strong, and blessed by the Spirit. We have no need to fear, should the need to paint our faces for war come. I must go. Those who hunt must be warned."
"I shall return safely, Firetop."
Laresa fought the urge to push the couple together. They stood staring at each other, in lieu of the kiss lovers would share at such a juncture. At last, Hawk nodded and trotted off in the direction the hunting party had taken in the morning hours.
Nathifa concentrated and sent her thoughts to Laresa, Who are those that dwell outside the light?
Laresa closed her eyes, searching through the thoughts and memories of those around her, discovering the answer. They are people who have been cast out. Those who have committed foul deeds, or fallen sway to black magic. In recent years, these people have started gathering, forming dangerous roving bands. When they gather, they are sought out and scattered, but they become more adept at hiding their location each time. Hawk told the truth, he is not afraid, and unsure that what Rushing Wind saw was indeed one of these people.
I suppose there is no need to worry, then. Laresa was glad to feel Nathifa's relief with those mental words, but it was tinged with worry for Hawk.
"Come; let us finish with our furs. The snow will be blowing soon, and we will be very cold if we do not," Laresa suggested.
Nathifa nodded and returned with Laresa to their teepee.
Laresa slipped out of her reverie with the dawn, realizing that she felt weak and light-headed. Because she rarely used her powers, Laresa was able to remain outside her ring for long periods of time, but there were limits.
Nathifa roused, smiling and saying, "Good morning."
"Good morning. I think I need to rest in my ring," Laresa replied weakly.
"Go then, you need not wait for me to awaken when you feel the need for rest. I will miss you."
"I will miss you as well," Laresa responded, and then dissolved into a misty vapor, returning to her ring.
As soon as she appeared in her home, Laresa felt her strength returning. It would take some time, and sleep, before her powers were fully restored, but at least she didn't feel as though she were about to collapse now.
With a thought, she changed out of her tribal clothing into a shimmering, nearly transparent gown of silk. The material felt wonderful against her skin, slippery and cool. She relaxed back onto her cushions, closing her violet eyes, and letting her mind drift.
Laresa's thoughts quickly drifted in a direction that precluded sleep. Nathifa had once again satisfied the needs of her body last night, and in Laresa's weakened state, the sensations coming from her Mistress had nearly overwhelmed the Djinn's careful controls. Nathifa was still too uncomfortable with her feelings, and the one time Laresa had let her hand drift between her thighs to sate her own need, she had keenly felt Nathifa's unease. Thus, Laresa simply endured — drawing hope from the slowly eroding discomfort she sensed from Nathifa — that such things would eventually not be a problem.
She could have used her powers, naturally, to hide the sight, sound, and scent from her Mistress, but Laresa felt uncomfortable doing so. Doing that, or retreating to her ring felt deceptive to Laresa, and so she refused to do either. Nevertheless, she had nearly done so last night. The memories quickly returned Laresa to that state now, and nothing here precluded her from cooling her burning need.
Sliding her hands slowly up her body, Laresa's back arched, and a short moan escaped her. Cupping her full breasts, she let her fingertips glide over them, caressing them with the silk that covered them. Her body undulated slightly as her arousal built, her nipples stiffening to tent the soft cloth.
Laresa let her fingers glide over the pebble hard points, making no attempt to stifle the high-pitched, warbling gasp of need that bubbled from her. The pale, pink tips tingled beneath her touch, connecting instantly with the steadily building tickle in her sex.
Leaving one hand to continue stimulating her breasts and nipples, Laresa slipped the other down her body again, parting her legs as she did so. Reaching her nether region, Laresa traced the creases of her thighs, one after the other, the slippery silk feeling delightful against the sensitive skin.
In her mind, Nathifa's hands replaced Laresa's, increasing the Djinn's arousal. Sliding her hand over her mound, Laresa teased the short, white-blonde curls there, before spreading her fingers apart in a V. Laresa's hand moved downward, her parted fingers gliding along her outer lips, tantalizingly close to her wet heat.
Upon reaching the bottom, she gathered up the silk, baring her sex. A single finger gliding upward along her folds drew a loud moan from her, and the sound deepened as she pressed that digit between her lips and into her saturated depths.
Days of fighting her urges in the face of the strong, handsome braves of the tribe, and the beautiful woman with whom she lived meant that Laresa was now near a fever pitch. Her finger was completely coated in creamy juices the moment it penetrated her, and after a few strokes, she added a second finger.
Pent up need drove her quickly toward the edge, one hand probing her depths, and the other moving to flash over her labia and swollen clitoris. Her first orgasm was sharp and surprising with its power. Her contracting muscles bent her body like a bow up from the cushions, to tremble there for long moments as she screamed in release.
Slowly settling to the cushions, Laresa's continued to caress her nether lips, settling from her first climax, and then building toward another. It took an almost uncountable number of orgasms to quell her need, and at last drift off into a rejuvenative sleep.
Nathifa sighed, stroking Laresa's ring. She already missed her friend, perhaps even a bit more today than usual. Her dream last night of Laresa had been the most vivid yet, and had moved into entirely new territory. Upon settling from her climax on Laresa's wonderful lips and tongue, Nathifa's dream self had moved to return the favor.
The dream had awakened her in the night with an intense, aching need burning inside her. Nathifa's fingers had cooled the flames, but not extinguished them. When she drifted back off to sleep, the dream had returned again. Upon awakening, Nathifa felt as though she wanted to make the dreams a reality. That feeling was not fading now, which was both a little disconcerting, and at the same time perfectly natural.
For now, Nathifa tried to push the thoughts back, as they caused her body to scream for satisfaction, and she couldn't risk sounds of pleasure drifting to others awake in the village. The fire was little more than a few smoldering coals, and yet the teepee was perfectly comfortable, though Nathifa knew the air outside would be sharply chill. The other teepees in the village would likewise be warm, yet another small gift from Laresa to her adopted people.
Rising to stretch, Nathifa fought off the last vestiges of sleep — and arousal. Once she mastered her body, Nathifa broke her fast, and then stepped outside. She looked forward to another day of chatting with the other women, while scraping and preparing hides, or whatever other tasks would greet her today.
As soon as she exited the teepee, Nathifa knew something was wrong. The camp was abuzz, and not with the usual sounds of the morning. Seeing a gathering near the medicine man's teepee, Nathifa hurried there to find out what was amiss.
Nathifa gasped, seeing Hawk and another brave lying upon the cold ground. A black-fletched arrow lay next to the one brave, and the medicine man was working to remove an identical shaft from Hawk. Pushing through the crowd, Nathifa's heart turned to ice in her chest. She knelt down next to Hawk, tears rolling down her cheeks, as the medicine man removed the arrow.
"If I am to leave this world, I am pleased that your face is the last I will see, Firetop," Hawk whispered weakly.
It all snapped into focus then. Afraid to be involved with anyone, Nathifa had denied her feelings for Hawk with such strength that she didn't even consciously acknowledge them herself. Now, seeing him dying, she couldn't stifle her heart any longer.
"Hold this over his wound, I must tend to Fleetfoot," the medicine man request of Nathifa, holding out a cloth to her.
Sobbing, Nathifa did as the medicine man had directed. "You can't leave me, not now." Remembering that Laresa was too weak to emerge from her ring, Nathifa repeated, "Please, not now."
"If it is my time, I accept it. Know that I love you, Firetop Bird," Hawk said, looking up into her eyes.
Nathifa felt warmth infuse her body, both from his words, and from something else. She noticed a faint golden glimmer from below the beaded bracelet she wore, a gift from Hawk's sister. Beneath that gift was the bracelet that had been her home as a Djinn, and it was from that item that the glow radiated.
Hawk drew in a deep breath, and his eyes opened wide. He reached up and took Nathifa's hand, moving it aside. Beneath her hand, the wound was healed. Murmurs of surprise rippled through those gathered around them, and Nathifa stared at the still glimmering bracelet in wonder.
"Fleetfoot," Hawk said, sitting up. "Use your blessing, and save his life as well."
Nathifa nodded, turning toward the other Brave. The medicine man nodded respectfully, and sat back out of the way. Resting her hands over Fleetfoot's wound, Nathifa saw the glow of her bracelet grow stronger.
Fleetfoot coughed, opening his eyes. Nathifa moved her hand, and exclamations of joy erupted from everyone when they saw his wound too was healed.
"I don't understand," Nathifa whispered, staring at her bracelet.
"The Spirit has blessed you, Firetop Bird. This is a rare gift, not seen in our tribe for many moons," the medicine man said reverently, taking Nathifa's hand.
"We must prepare for war," Hawk announced suddenly, rising to his feet.
The Chieftain moved through the parting crowd. "The black shafts of those who dwell outside the light."
"They have discovered our bounty, and seek it in this lean season for their own. They gather, preparing to attack," Hawk explained ominously.
The medicine man proclaimed, "The blessing of the Spirit is with us. This miracle is but another gift of the Spirit to our people. We shall do war, and the black ones will touch us not. Braves, paint your faces for war. Show your bravery to the Spirit. We shall be blessed with strength of heart, and fleetness of foot."
The villagers immediately sprang into a frenzy of activity, preparing their defenses. Hawk took Nathifa's hand, and said, "I thank you, Firetop. I seek your forgiveness for my words, as I lay dying. I would never have bared my thoughts so, were not my life slipping away."
Nathifa's lip quivered, and then she smiled, "I love you too, Sees With a Hawk's Eye."
"I had not dared hope," Hawk said softly. "I go to battle, knowing what awaits me now. The black ones will not stand before me, with the strength of your love and blessing filling my heart." They kissed, Nathifa's body melting into his, as she released the final restraints upon her bottled up feelings.
"I must go."
"Be careful. Be strong," Nathifa whispered.
Nathifa breathed a sigh of relief a few hours later, when both the scouts and the medicine man cautioned that today was not the day to lead the attack. The dark ones were still gathering, and there appeared to be some friction between two factions within the growing group.
The Chieftain favored not taking the offensive at all, but rather defending their village only if attacked. After a short meditation, the medicine man agreed, saying, "The blessing of the Great Spirit is upon our village. It is here where we are strongest, and here we should stay."
Hawk asked, "What of our women, and children?"
The Chieftain's old wife stepped forward. "The scouts say there are many of the dark ones, all about us. Where are we to run, or to hide? If you seek them out to make war upon them, some may come amongst us when we are undefended. We are not does, but she-wolves, and we will protect our dens."
"We defend our village. In the face of our blessing, and our Braves, those who dwell outside the light cannot win," the Chieftain announced. "Some will watch in the night, and Braves will watch the dark ones, to warn us of their actions. All must be wary, and none should sleep deep. Those who dwell outside the light will use the darkness."
"They will come this night," the medicine man prophesied.
Hawk shouted, "And we shall send them back into the darkness that spawned them!" He then raised his tomahawk and let out a war whoop. The other braves took up the cry, and then everyone returned to making preparations.
Touching the ring, Nathifa could sense that Laresa was yet unable to leave her home. Having been a Djinn herself, and knowing Laresa well, Nathifa could sense when the genie was strong enough to emerge from the ring.
Nathifa wished with all her might that Laresa's strength returned before the dark ones attacked.
The scouts returned as the sun sank below the horizon. The enemy was preparing to attack. The people gathered, the women, children, and aged in the center of their painted Braves. Women gave charms to their men, to give them strength, protection, and bravery in battle. Nathifa approached Hawk, removing her bracelet. It was obvious that the item possessed power, because it had healed Hawk and Fleetfoot.
"Take this, to protect you in battle."
Fastening the bracelet on his arm, Hawk held it up and remarked with wonder, "I feel the power of your gift. The blessing of the Great Spirit fills me. Surely none may stand against me, Firetop."
"Fight well, and return to me," Nathifa said softly.
A cry of challenge erupted from the darkness. They were coming.
The village answered the challenge, the defiant screams of the women, and shrill cries of the children no less powerful than the mighty roars of the Braves.
"Flee into the grass like the rabbit — now — if you would live," growled a man whose face was painted with black into a terrifying mask. He approached, others emerging from the gloom behind him, all with weapons raised.
Nathifa touched the ring she wore, her heart soaring when she could feel Laresa's strength. Laresa, we need you!
Feeling the pull of Nathifa's call, as well as her worry, Laresa emerged from the ring, her power preventing those around them from being alarmed, or realizing that she had simply coalesced from the vapors right in front of them. As far as the others in the village would remember, she was with them all the time.
Seeing what was going on, Laresa thought to Nathifa, I will aid the Braves. All will be well. Concentrating, Laresa used her power to make all of the villagers impervious to the weapons of their enemies.
"The blessing of the Great Spirit is upon our people. Flee now, as you would have us do. Only death awaits you here," Hawk shouted out, and then whooped again in challenge, the rest of the village joining in his cry.
"It is you who will die this day. Your food and your women will be ours," the dark-painted man countered when the cry died down. He then offered his own challenge, the sounds of his men taking it up emerging from the darkness. He chopped his hand downward, and his warriorsstarted forward. At the same time, the sound of bowstrings twanging echoed through the night.
The charge of the dark ones faltered when they saw black-feathered shafts shattering against the bodies and horsehide shields of the village Braves. The Braves were no less startled by the occurrence, but believed it to be part of their blessing. Thus, they remained steadfast and ready.
Hawk stood staring, feeling power flowing through him. He dropped his tomahawk to the earth. "The Spirit is with us. Now you shall see the Great Spirit's power!"
Everywhere, mouths dropped open and people moved back involuntarily as the transformation washed over Hawk. Where once stood a man, now there stood a man-sized bird of prey. Spreading his wings, Hawk let out a deafening screech of challenge. His wings beat, and his talons curled as he rose from the earth, screeching again.
Laresa? Nathifa questioned, confused as to what had caused the genie to use this magic.
No less confused than Nathifa, Laresa mentally responded, It is not my power that changed him.
But, how then?
Laresa concentrated. I feel the influence of another, something great, something that is part of this land. I also sense something of you, though. It feels like the touch of your power when you were Djinn.
My bracelet? It healed grave wounds through my touch, and Hawk wears it now.
That must be it. I know little more than you. Perhaps Hawk's words were true, and the Great Spirit that our new people revere has joined with some remaining power in your bracelet to bring this magic.
On the field of battle, the dark ones turned and fled, screaming in terror. Although startled, and wary of the transformed Hawk, the villagers cried out in joy, as the enemy retreated in fear. Hawk screamed a final challenge, and then settled to the ground, clouds of dust rising from beneath his wings. When his talons touched the earth, he blurred back into his human form.
Almost immediately, he turned and walked toward Nathifa. When he reached her, he smiled and removed the bracelet. "Thank you for this blessing, Firetop. Through this, the Great Spirit spoke to me, and showed me the path to this power, to become my totem and drive the dark ones away. I can still hear the whispers of the Great Spirit. It is in the wind rustling through the grasses, and in the crackling of the fires. It is everywhere, and it asks that I commune with it this night. There is something you need as well, to give your soul peace. Seek it this night, and I will seek you out with the dawn."
Taking the bracelet from his hand, Nathifa felt something wash over her. Turning to glance at Laresa, she knew instantly what she needed, in order to find the peace Hawk had mentioned. "I will, Hawk. I await your coming with the dawn."
Examining the bracelet, Laresa remarked, "It is quite surprising. The magic in the bracelet is certainly the magic you possessed as Djinn. It is not so strong, but it is the same. There is something else, though, a magic that feels divine, like the pendant that freed you. I sense many of the things I do for the tribe, such as healing and changing the weather are possible with the magic in your bracelet."
"You should try to go back to your ring wearing it, then. Perhaps you will be freed, as I was."
Laresa fought hard against the excitement trying to consume her. From the moment she first examined the bracelet, that very thought was flitting through her head. She carefully controlled her emotions, not wanting to feel the heart-wrenching pain that had struck her the last time. "I'll try."
Fastening on the bracelet, Laresa attempted to return to her ring. Opening her eyes, she sighed, seeing the familiar cushions. Emerging in the real world once again, she shook her head and handed the bracelet back to Nathifa.
"It is so unfair," Nathifa lamented.