Caution: This Fantasy Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Fa/Fa, Ma/Ma, Mult, Consensual, NonConsensual, Reluctant, Magic, Fiction, High Fantasy, BDSM, Sadistic, Group Sex, First, Oral Sex, Anal Sex, Masturbation, Petting, Fisting, Sex Toys, Squirting, Water Sports, Cream Pie, Exhibitionism, Voyeurism, Size, Big Breasts, Menstrual Play, Public Sex, Slow,

Desc: Fantasy Sex Story: Prelude - A magic-user of little renown, Danica seeks a little excitement in her mundane life. When she is ensnared in the web of the Archmage Zoraster Arias, Danica gets far more than she bargained for. She discovers hidden power and hidden desires, long repressed, as Zoraster indoctrinates her to his service through pain, humiliation, and temptation. She forms bonds of friendship and love with others caught in Zoraster's web along the way, but can they escape and make him pay?

Danica hurried to close her mageware shop, shutting all the display cases and enabling their magical wards. She locked the coin box and activated its mystical protection as well, placing it in her magically sealed vault.

Reaching into the neckline of her robe, Danica pulled out a rune stone hanging around her neck. Placing it in the blank spot at the center of the vault's sigil covered door, the runes sealed the vault against intrusion and detection. Her money — and the items she stored there for herself and others — would be safe from all but the most powerful magic now. Sometimes it paid to have an older sister who was strong in the Art.

Danica looked around, scowling at the dust and other assorted debris that had blown into the shop that day. It had been hot in the morning, but the breeze from the open door and windows had made the shop comfortable. That gentle breeze had unfortunately transformed into strong gusts later in the day, blowing half the outdoors into her shop before she could shut the doors and windows.

She waved a hand in a dismissive gesture and sighed, deciding that the sweeping could wait until tomorrow.

Seeing someone walking toward the shop that she recognized, Danica quickly locked the door and turned the sign to read Closed. She let out a sigh of relief as old man Sorrel turned and walked back the way he had come upon seeing the sign. He always took forever to make his purchases, which were always things of minimal profit to Danica. Normally, she would have stayed open for him anyway, but tonight she was meeting someone and needed time to get ready.

A quick spoken word activated the wards and alarms on the door, and Danica turned to head for her private chambers at the back of the shop. She sighed again as she passed her lab, knowing there was a lot of work awaiting her in that room as well. She guessed that she would open up quite late tomorrow, considering all the work she had to do before she could start the business day.

With a little luck, she hoped that maybe she would have a good reason to sleep in after tonight as well. Danica had been seeing Robert for a few weeks now, although they had only had the opportunity to step out together two or three times during those weeks. She liked him, and it had been a bit too long since she had been with a man for her tastes. She was starting to get itchy and touching herself, which always bothered her.

She had wanted him from the moment she had met him, and the need was growing more than a little difficult to ignore. It had been six months or more since she'd had sex when she met Robert. Somewhere between too little time and the wrong men, it had just happened. Danica was just afraid of jumping into bed with him and finding out he was an ass afterward — it had happened before.

After going out a few times, and spending quite a bit of time talking in the shop during the weeks they had known each other, Danica didn't think that was the case with Robert. He was charming, considerate, handsome, strong, and shared her interests. He worked as a healer, and that is how they had met. Danica was about the only source of many healing herbs in the area, and she either gathered or grew them herself to ensure they were fresh.

Danica also had ample opportunities to notice the bulge in his trousers while they talked. She smiled and licked her lips while thinking about it, as she opened the door to her private room in the back of the shop.

She could see him in her mind's eye as she daydreamed for a few moments in the doorway. His wavy brown hair always seemed just a bit mussed, and a smile always decorated his clean-shaven face. His face had an almost boyish quality, but his deep, brown eyes shined with an intelligence and compassion that changed his whole look when she looked into them. He was lean and well muscled, which was obvious even in the modest clothing he commonly wore. That modest clothing could also do little to hide that bulge between his legs. Every time her eyes wandered there, the sight made Danica long to see — among other things — what was beneath that thin layer of cloth.

Danica felt a tingle between her legs as she thought about Robert, and shook her head to clear it. If she kept thinking like that, she knew she would end up having to touch herself or go crazy. Her sexual needs were not her only concern in seeing Robert. Lately, she had felt the grip of depression tightening around her. Her life was a continuous cycle of mediocrity, and she knew she needed a change if she didn't want to become one of those bitter old spinsters. She needed a shock to turn her life around, and she hoped Robert might be the person to provide that spark. More than anything, Danica wanted to feel excited about life again.

She had put the kettles on to boil a while before closing up, and all four were whistling now from the next room. Danica stepped into the small room, a combination of kitchen and bathhouse that had once been her Master's room in the shop. Only one wall of his room connected to the rest of the building, and so the heat from the stove didn't cause the whole shop to feel oppressive in the summer. This had also allowed Danica to run a drainpipe, giving her the opportunity to have more than a simple washtub. She was able to have daily baths in relative comfort, thanks to her permanent bathtub with its drain. It had cost Danica a ridiculous amount of money, but to her it was worth it.

Stepping out the back door, Danica made several trips to the water barrel with buckets, filling her tub with water. Once it was full, she poured in three kettles of water to bring it to what she knew from experience was the perfect temperature.

Untying her robe, Danica let it fall to the floor and forgot about it. She would have time to deal with that later as well. Pulling off her undershirt, Danica winced at the smell. The heat had caused her to sweat ever since she opened, and washing with a cloth — even often — could only do so much.

She cupped her large breasts in her hands, lifting them and letting air circulate under them for a few moments. Her thoughts about Robert had caused her nipples to harden and stick out to their full length — about as long as the tip of her pinky and just as big around. Turning toward the mirror, she looked under the globes to make sure the heat and sweating hadn't caused any red lines. There was nothing to see, which was a good thing, because any imperfection would have kept her from considering taking her clothes off in front of Robert.

Reaching up, she removed the pins and ties from her hair and shook out her auburn tresses. They fell perfectly straight down to her shoulders, just resting upon them. It was longer than she usually chose to wear her hair, but when Robert had mentioned he liked it, she had put off trimming it back to her more accustomed style.

Danica's face broke into a crooked smile as she posed in front of the mirror. She pushed her hips out slightly to the side, raising her arms up over her head and crossing her hands. She blew a kiss to the mirror, then laughed and dropped the pose. She knew she could not compare to her sister Devan's lithe dancer's figure and perfect, firm boobs, but she had her own assets.

Danica's breasts were much larger than her sister's, and she had just the right amount of curve in her waist and hips to balance them. Her fair skin and freckles set her apart from her sister, and people had told her more than once that her face had the ability to mesmerize a person with its expressiveness.

Slipping off her panties as she chased away her musing, Danica frowned at the long stubble on her legs, mound, and labia. This was an imperfection that required attention, if there was any chance of anything happening with Robert tonight. Shaving her legs and sex was something she had done daily for years, but business had proven brisk lately. She had stayed open well after dark many days, and had simply felt too tired to care about more than a quick bath before bed.

Danica sank into the tub with a contented sigh. She grabbed her razor from next to the tub, and lifted one leg to where she could reach it. She wanted to get her shaving out of the way so she could relax for a few minutes in the warm water, letting it soak away some of the ache from being on her feet all day.

She shaved her legs with all the speed and skill of someone who has done it daily for so long that it required little thought. Rising up to her knees in the water, she turned her razor upon the stubble on her mound. Within a minute or two, she was shaven completely bare with only a thin strip on her mound. Danica had always thought of it as an arrow pointing at her clit, showing a denser man where he was supposed to be licking her. A few quick snips with a pair of dainty scissors trimmed her arrow of hair down to a length she liked.

Pulling her knees up, Danica dunked her head under the water. She grabbed a cake of lavender scented soap, which she made herself, and started to wash.

Once she finished washing, Danica relaxed back into the tub for a time. She got up at one point and walked over to the stove for the last kettle of hot water. It allowed her a few more minutes of soaking before the water grew too chilly to feel comfortable.

Danica stood up, feeling her nipples painfully stiffen, and goose bumps popping up all over her skin. The air felt chilly in the room, despite the season and the stove still burning. Danica experienced the oddest sensation that she was being watched. Crossing her arms over her breasts, she looked around. There was naturally nothing to see, so Danica shook her head, pulled the plug, and stepped from the tub.

Danica patted her body dry with a towel and went back to her bedroom. She pulled on a clean pair of panties, frilly things made with a fine weave of cotton. The thin strip of hair she left on her mound, and the outline of her labia, were plainly visible through the cloth. She smiled a little wondering what Robert might think of them, and then opened a cedar chest at the foot of her bed.

Danica pulled out a black dress and carefully smoothed it out. Fortunately, the material didn't let wrinkles set very easily, and a few quick rubs of her hands soon had the material hanging properly.

Pulling on the dress, Danica looked down at her body with a smile. Anybody who knew her would know something special was happening tonight. This was her best dress, and it only came out of the cedar chest on special occasions. The dress hugged her curves, and the cut of the material lifted her breasts slightly. The plunge of the neckline showed a hint of cleavage, just enough to draw the eyes without appearing overly wanton.

Danica walked over to her dressing table and brushed her hair, knowing she only had a little while left before she was supposed to meet Robert, and that she was going to need every moment.

The Inn where Robert took her to dine was the finest in the entire town. It was a new place, opened as the trade route took notice of the town, and enough wealthy patrons passed through to support it. The food was wonderful, and the wine was some of the best Danica had ever tasted.

Danica had plenty of room to judge the wine, because she drank a lot of it. She was still a little nervous, despite how badly she wanted this night to turn out with her sharing Robert's bed. She was more than a little tipsy when they moved to a table in a shadowed corner of the Inn to sip wine after eating.

After a few kisses, Danica felt desire and arousal boiling up within her. Robert was a perfect gentleman, and despite his wanting her too, he had remained polite enough not to offer even a hint without seeing signals from her that she was thinking about it too. Danica sent those signals now, and they grew stronger by the minute.

Kisses turned into heavy petting, and Danica heard the rude comments from a couple of men sitting a short distance away at the same time Robert did. Danica blushed a deep red in embarrassment, but the color in Robert's cheeks was something else entirely. He stared hard at the table from which the rude comments had erupted for a moment and then asked, "Shall we go take a walk?"

Danica smiled and nodded her agreement — her eyes going wide when she stood and felt her head swim. "I think I may need to walk a bit to clear some of this wine out of my head," she said with a laugh.

"I'm feeling it too. I was a little nervous about tonight, and I think I drank a little too much."

"At least we're having fun," Danica responded, and kissed him.

"Let's go walk down by the temple gardens. It's beautiful in the moonlight, and cooler there. It's not far from my house if we want to stop and rest for a while."

Danica let a crooked, knowing grin creep over her face when he said the last. It seemed he just might be thinking the same thing she was after all. He was just too much of a gentleman to hint at it any more than that.

They walked to the temple district, and the air was indeed cooler there. It was generally assumed that the concentration of the magic from the closely spaced temples kept the area cool or warm — as the weather dictated.

Though the local temples were small, they had magnificent gardens. Each temple tried to outdo the one next to it by importing greater numbers of exotic flowers, or building pools and stocking them with colorful fish. The gardens had actually attracted attention from many nearby areas, and those visitors had begun the flow of traffic that now slowly swelled the town.

As they walked hand in hand, Danica noticed they were approaching the temple of Erotine. Danica felt a little tingle in her nipples and between her legs, thinking about the one time she had visited there — and about Robert walking beside her.

Those who entered an Erotine temple were required to remove their clothing. She had been drinking — a great deal more than she had this night — with a lover when the suggestion they go there had come up. Drunk and aroused, she had agreed. She had sobered slightly when she had to disrobe at the temple entrance, and her head cleared even more once they entered to find four couples having sex in plain sight. The priestesses stared at her shamelessly, obvious desire evident in their eyes. Those looks were more disconcerting to Danica than everything else. Her lover had distracted her from her worries shortly thereafter, however.

It had been one of the few times Danica had let a man come inside her. She was barren according to the healers and clerics, so that was not the problem. The problem was that she doubted she would ever find any sort of lasting relationship if she revealed her inability to have children. Those who would not have minded her barrenness probably had no intentions of staying with her, so Danica always had her partner pull from her before he reached his peak.

Danica loved the feeling of a man flooding her depths with his hot cream, however, and she wanted it every time. It was not as if she could get pregnant, so the temptation was always there — long-term happiness be damned. No woman had ever become pregnant in an Erotine temple, and such was well known. Thus, Danica had felt nothing prevented her from feeling her lover explode inside her within those walls. She was half-tempted to try to steer Robert into the temple, as the memories brought intense arousal with them.

"Are you alright Danica?"

Danica snapped back to reality, and immediately blushed in embarrassment. She could feel the wetness between her legs, and knew the look she had on her face must have betrayed what she was thinking. "I'm okay. I must just be tired, or hot, or something."

"We could sit down on one of the benches for a while," Robert suggested, gesturing toward one nearby.

"Why don't we just go to your house," Danica countered, a hint of desire creeping into her voice — even though she had really intended to hide it.

Danica saw the faint shudder that Robert did his best to control. "Of course," he replied with a smile.

They reached the house a few minutes later. It was modest, but was at least as big as Danica's shop, and only a tiny part of that comprised her living quarters. They went inside to have another cup of wine, and soon they were kissing again.

Things progressed quickly, Robert putting more passion into his touches and kisses with each passing moment. Danica matched him, her arousal and need for release increasing every second. At last, she could resist no longer, and lay her hand over the bulge in his trousers. She moaned quietly into their kiss as she felt his hard manhood throb beneath her hand.

They broke the kiss and breathlessly stared at each other for a moment. Robert then stood up and held out his hand to Danica. She took it, and he led her to the bedroom.

When they entered, Danica smiled and started to unbutton her dress. Robert pulled off his shirt at the same time, his eyes going wide when he saw Danica's full breasts revealed to him.

Danica finished unbuttoning the dress and let it pool to the floor at her feet. She stepped forward and kissed him, letting her breasts press up against his naked chest. She felt him quiver, and a tingle ran up and down her spine at the same time.

Reaching down, Danica pulled his trousers down as far as she could reach, and wrapped her hand around his cock. Her moan this time was much louder — and much more intense — as she felt his hard, naked flesh throbbing in her hand. Her fingertips just touched around the girth of his member. She knew she could have wrapped both hands around it and the tip still would have poked out the top.

He traced kisses down her neck, on down her shoulder, and then kissed across her chest, moving toward her breast. Danica breathed heavily from the combination of her anticipation and arousal, as he slowly neared her breasts.

The fist kiss on the swell of her breast brought a moan of pleasure from her — the second caused her to suck in a sharp breath of air. When his lips closed over her nipple, Danica threw her head back and gasped. Her hands found the back of his head of their own volition, and she caressed his head as he suckled her breasts.

Robert was far from ready to end his loving attention when Danica gently pushed him away. She was growing wetter by the moment, and knew she would soak the panties she still wore if she didn't remove them. She pulled them down and hastily stepped out of them, sitting down on the foot of the bed and sliding backward toward the head.

When she reached the head of the bed, Danica lay back and parted her legs. Robert stared with aroused fascination at her glistening sex, and Danica slightly inclined her head indicating she wanted him in the bed with her — now.

Robert smiled and moved forward, climbing onto the bed on his knees. Danica's breathing quickened again as he moved toward her. He leaned over her, kissing her deeply, and Danica moaned into the kiss as she felt his hard cock just brush her nether lips. When his lips left hers, he began to kiss his way down her body again.

He lingered once again for a few moments at her breasts, briefly suckling each nipple before resuming his kissing journey down her body. A kiss on her mound, just above where she wanted it, set off a shiver that ran up from her sex and then rapidly back down to curl her toes.

Her toes stayed curled as he kissed her moist lips and slipped his tongue between them. Danica's back arched slightly and she groaned in contented release as he lapped for her abundant juices.

Danica was over sensitized, intensely aroused, and had been denied for too long. She felt pressure building inside her quickly, and knew it was not going to take very much of his tongue on her to bring her to a peak. Lightly pinching her nipples and rolling them between her fingers, she moved her breasts out of the way to watch between them as he licked her aching pussy.

Her body responded exactly as she had anticipated only a few moments later, when the pressure of her approaching climax swelled within her. For just a moment, she hung in a limbo where she could feel nothing, hear nothing, and see nothing — and then the world crashed back in on her as her body contracted in orgasm.

Danica let out a quiet scream as her back arched, and her head lolled back. Her hands went behind Robert's head, holding him tight against her quivering sex, with her legs tightly wrapped around him. He continued to lap up the trickling streams of her juices as she gasped her way through a climax too long denied.

When Danica relaxed enough to release him from her tight grip, he pulled away from her and wiped his fingers across his face. He put the fingers, coated in her juices, into his mouth and smiled at her as she continued to shiver through the aftershocks of her release.

As soon as Danica recovered enough to move, she rose up on her knees and pushed Robert down on his back on the bed. She didn't waste any time grasping his cock in her hand and engulfing it in her mouth.

Robert ran his fingers through her hair as she sucked up and down his shaft, pumping her hand slowly over his hard flesh at the base. After a few moments, she removed her stroking hand and instead cupped his balls, gently rolling them as she continued to stroke his cock in her mouth.

He was no less sensitive and overly stimulated than Danica. The sounds he made, the twitches of his manhood in her mouth, and the contraction of his jewels in her hand all told Danica that he would explode in her mouth soon. Danica moaned around his shaft, anticipating the taste of his cream. If she couldn't have him fill her pussy full, this was the next best thing.

Danica knew he was hovering on the edge when he started pushing her away. She released him from her mouth, flipped her hair out of her eyes to look at him, and asked, "What's wrong?"

"It will take me a while to get hard again if I come."

Danica smiled. "You could hold me, and we could talk while we wait. I want to feel you explode in my mouth. I want to taste it, swallow it, and feel your hot cream in my belly, Baby."

Robert twitched and gasped, and a little ooze of cum flowed slowly down his glans. "I don't think I can hold it back now anyhow," he said with a strained tone.

"Then don't, Baby," Danica responded, and wrapped her lips around him again.

Danica had only managed to suck down his shaft once and back up to the tip when he grunted, gasped, and shot hot spurts of thick cum into her mouth. She let out a high-pitched moan of delight as he flooded her mouth. She swallowed the first spurt, and felt a second instantly replacing it. She sucked on the head of his cock, while pumping her hand at the base until he started to twitch violently with every movement she made.

She released him from the warm confines of her mouth, letting his purple head slide from between her lips in the form of a kiss over it. His hips hunched upward as she released him, and he lay breathing heavily.

Danica licked her lips. "Mmm, it tasted so good. Thank you, Baby."

"No, thank you," Robert said with a laugh.

Danica moved down to lie beside him, and he wrapped his arms around her. She leaned her head into his chest, listening to the sound of his fast heartbeat and quickened breathing. She moaned in contentment, and nestled up tighter against him.

After he had recovered for a few minutes, Robert told Danica how beautiful she was, how sexy she was — an endless stream of compliments that both made Danica blush, and made her wet at the same time.

It took Robert a few minutes to realize he was rambling, and he blushed when it dawned on him. Danica laughed, "Don't worry about it — I like it." She ached to feel him filling her now, and moved to huskily whisper in his ear about how badly she wanted him inside her. While she whispered to him, she softly rubbed his flaccid member, pleased to feel just the slightest twitches of life in it already.

After a few minutes of talking dirty to him and kissing over his face, she said, "Make that gorgeous cock hard for me, Baby. I want it deep inside me," and slid downward to lap his cock.

It only took a few touches of her tongue to start him swelling again. Danica moaned and encouraged him with more dirty talk, then pulled his slowly stiffening cock between her lips to suck him to full erection.

As soon as he was fully hard, Danica moved up next to him again and whispered, "Put that big, hard cock inside me, Baby. I need it so much." His reactions to her sexy talk encouraged her to keep it up, and indeed push even more.

He turned his head and kissed her, wasting no time in moving above her and aiming his erection at her wet heat. He pushed between her lips with a contented sigh as soon as he was aligned with her, drawing a loud moan from Danica as he slid inside her.

She thought he was going to split her in half at first. Her muscles tightly contracted as he tried to penetrate her. Danica let out a few gasping breaths, relaxed, and felt him hit bottom. Her muscles contracted again when he was fully engulfed in her warm depths, and they both shuddered from the feeling.

Robert slowly stroked his hard member into Danica, letting her feel every inch of it as it pushed against her walls with hot friction. Danica reached down and pulled her knees up higher, holding her legs behind the knees with her hands. She gasped when his throbbing rod reached even deeper inside her with the next thrust.

Danica was still hypersensitive, while he was somewhat desensitized from having already ejaculated only a short time ago. Robert continued to slowly stroke her, pushing deeper into her with each thrust. He would slam his cock home, slowly withdraw it all the way to the tip and then push back into her depths again. It was stoking Danica's internal fires quickly, and she knew she was going to come again soon — and hard.

As he saw Danica's breathing quicken and felt her muscles rhythmically contracting tighter around him, Robert knew she was close to her peak. He abandoned the slow torturous pull from her depths for a quick retraction, now simply taking her hard as she drew ever closer to climax.

"Oh yes, give it to me Baby. I'm going to come — come so hard. I'm coming!" Danica screamed as she exploded into orgasm.

He continued to stroke his cock into her depths, her flowing juices squirting out around him. Danica felt her orgasm slightly ebb, and then suddenly surge back into full force. She clenched her teeth, growled, and then screamed again as this second wave of release hit her. A few moments later, the tension in her body lessened for a few moments, only to spike again as he continued to stroke her. Danica's scream turned loud and warbling as he continued to pound her quivering pussy.

Dancia gasped for air as Robert slowed down, eventually pulling from her completely. When he withdrew, she let out a yelp and curled up into a ball, trembling from the intense aftershocks of her orgasm.

Robert stroked her back, a little confused and worried. He had never seen a woman react this way before, and had no idea what was going on. Somewhere in the back of Danica's clouded mind, she knew what had happened. She had experienced a multiple orgasm — climaxes coming back to back in rapid succession — before. It had only happened to her once, and she half thought she had imagined it, until Robert had done it to her again a few moments ago.

When Danica managed to uncurl her body, Robert asked, with concern in his voice, "Are you okay?"

Danica weakly laughed, still having trouble catching her breath. "I'm wonderful."

"You had me worried; I thought I had hurt you."

Danica laughed again, and then moaned. "Exactly the opposite. Gods that was... Oh my. I can't describe it, but it felt so good, Baby — so good!"

The aftershocks finally died down, and Danica looked up to see Robert's cock, slick and glistening with her juices, twitching as if it was anxious to return to her warm confines again. "Mmm, more," Danica said with a playful note of command in her voice.

She had no more than spread her legs before Robert once again mounted her and penetrated her. Danica took up the exact same position she had before, wanting to feel that same intense sensation — holding onto her and refusing to let her go again.

This time, as Danica felt the heat rising within her, she saw the strain in Robert's face that told her he was close as well. She knew it was going to be a near thing, and she prayed he would be able to hold out long enough to make her come again.

He did, and Danica's walls squeezed him tight as she climaxed once more. Robert growled as he continued to thrust into her depths, obviously fighting off his own release with every ounce of his will.

Once again, Danica's orgasm ebbed and surged. This time, she had no chance to reach a second ebb, because Robert pulled from her with a loud grunt to stroke his cock over her tummy.

Danica had no idea what caused her to do it — there was the vague notion that if she couldn't have his hot cum in her belly one way, she would get it another. She quickly spun around on the bed and engulfed his pussy-slick cock in her mouth.

She didn't care that she tasted her own creamy juices on his cock — she only knew that she wanted his cum in her mouth. Somewhere in the back of her head, she noted the somewhat spicy, sweet taste of her wetness on his shaft as he spasmed and squirted his seed against the back of her throat.

Danica sucked for every drop he had to offer, and he was forced to push her away. He collapsed to the bed, his trembling knees betraying him. A powerful aftershock, so strong it blurred the line between such and an orgasm, rocked Danica's body, and she collapsed next to him.

They lay recovering for quite some time, and then Robert looked over at Danica, and their eyes met. The couple stared into each other's eyes for long moments, until Robert said, "I think I might be falling in love with you."

Danica smiled and blushed, "Me too."

They wrapped their arms around each other and both soon fell asleep.

Danica whistled as she swept up the debris from the previous day from the shop. It was the last thing she had to do before she opened up for the day — extremely late.

Danica normally opened her door for business early in the morning, but it was well after high sun now and her sign still read closed. She and Robert had made love again in the morning — the time already well after Danica would normally have opened her shop. She had returned home to bathe when Robert finally tore himself away from her and went to his own work.

Danica had wanted to feel him come inside her so badly that she had almost held him inside her and forced it this last time. Only the fear of him finding out she was barren and losing interest had stopped her.

It had done nothing to dampen the warm glow of her mood, however. She was physically sated, for the first time in a long time, and feeling the first giddy twinges of love in her heart. Maybe she had finally found the right man after all this time. Maybe he wouldn't lose interest and run off with some other woman or disappear when he found out she couldn't bear him children.

Danica finished the sweeping, having already done all her herb work in the lab, and opened all the cases for the day's business. When she peeked out the window, she noticed a few people milling around outside. She smiled, thinking she might have to open late more often if it was going to draw in this kind of business.

She turned her sign and opened her door, letting in all the people waiting outside. It took the better part of an hour to clear out the initial rush, and people just kept coming. It was already late afternoon before the lines of people thinned out, giving Danica a chance to run back to her lab to restock some items in her herb jars that were running low.

Danica heard the bell ring, announcing someone had entered the shop. It rang either physically by the door striking it, or magically when someone was in the room. Another present from her older sister Devan, it let her feel safe to run back to her lab or vault while she was open — if no customers were in the shop — without locking all the cases.

She hurried back out to her counter, and saw a man in dark robes standing near the door. He looked impatient to Danica, from what little she could see of his face behind the deep cowl he wore. In his hand, he held a staff that was obviously magical, clutching it in a tight grip.

Danica slipped into the second sight, and marveled at the strength of the enchantments on the item. The magic the item held produced a glow that almost hurt her eyes to behold. She'd never seen such power within a single item, and that told her it was valuable indeed.

Upon seeing her emerge from the back, the dark-robed customer asked, "You are the proprietor of this establishment?"

Danica smiled, noticing the fine cut and cloth of his robe, combined with the powerful staff, and knew that she had a man of means in her shop. "Yes — what can I do for you sir?"

"I am told you have a vault," he responded.

"Yes sir, one guarded by thick walls, thick doors, strong wards, and runes," Danica explained.

"I fear I must stay in this rude hamlet for the evening, and I refuse to entrust my staff to the questionable security of the local innkeepers, even if it is by my side. I was warned of previous thefts in this area prior to my journey here. What would be the cost to store an item of such power in your vault?"

Danica felt a flash of irritation, due to the man's rude manner, but kept up appearances. A person didn't survive long in her business without a thick skin. Danica knew all about the previous thefts, as her sister had prevented one of them. Whoever the thief was, he or she had been able to penetrate great defenses to attain the magical items. The Art thief who stalked this area provided Danica's vault with brisk business, despite nothing having vanished in years. An established vault could always protect better than any temporary wards, and visiting wizards took advantage of it when they discovered she had one. Danica explained the daily cost, which was common regardless of what was stored there.

Examining his fingernails, never bothering to look at Danica, the cowled man said, "I would see your vault, before I entrust my precious staff to your care."

"Of course, one moment while I secure the rest of the shop and I will be glad to show you."

Danica closed the cases, and put her coin box away. The entire time, the wizard tapped his foot impatiently.

"Right this way sir," Danica said, and gestured for him to follow her behind the counter.

When they reached the vault, the mage examined the runes and wards on the door, then cast a few spells to test its security.

"Very well, it seems adequate. I shall return in the morning to acquire my staff. I trust you will be here — unlike this morning."

"Of course, Sir. Today was quite unusual. I am always open promptly in the morning," Danica said as she sealed the staff in the vault.

"Very well," he said and laid his coins on the counter. Without another word, he turned and left, nearly jostling another robed figure coming in the door.

Recognizing the newcomer, Danica beamed, and sang out, "Ashtar, welcome! It has been too long. How are your studies going?"

The dusky skinned wizard tugged at his goatee and laughed, "They are being most well, Danica. I journey this day to meet with his Excellency, Duke Blackhawk, and have found I am being most egregiously low on bat guano. One is never knowing when one must be hurling fireballs at vicious beasts, and it was a good reason to be seeing you."

"It's good to see you too, Ashtar. You're traveling overland to Fightershaven? Why not just..." Danica wiggled her fingers in a pantomime of spell casting.

Ashtar waved a hand before him in a dismissive gesture, "I have been being cloistered in my studies too long. The road calls and I have answered."

Danica laughed and then held her breath while she opened a jar of bat guano and spooned some out into a piece of oiled parchment. She sealed the packet of parchment when she finished and handed it to Ashtar. "That should be enough to hurl fireballs at every beast between here and Fightershaven."

"I am being thanking you, Danica. Had they known I would be stopping, I am being sure Devan and Master Darkniciad would send their greetings."

Ashtar pulled out his coin purse, and Danica started to wave off payment at the same time. The look Ashtar gave her when she did this caused her to laugh, and she let him pay her just like any other customer.

Once Danica put away the coins, Ashtar asked, "What did Master Arrant seek from your wares, Danica?"

"Arrant — is that who that was?" Now that Danica realized who the wizard was, it all snapped into focus. His demeanor matched his reputation exactly. He was reputed to be rude, arrogant, and powerful.

Ashtar nodded, "Yes, I thought you would be knowing it was him."

"Now that you've said his name, it makes sense, but he never offered it. He was storing a staff he carried in my vault," Danica explained.

"Much trade could he be bringing to your humble store, if impressed he is with your services," Ashtar said, and nodded several times.

Danica thought about it, and realized it was true. Arrant was quite influential in many circles, and if he put in a good word for her shop, it could mean a lot of coin in her pocket, "I'll have to take extra special care of him then."

"This would be most wise, I am thinking," Ashtar said with a wink. "I must to be going, it was being most good to see you, Danica."

"You too, Ashtar. Don't be a stranger — and tell my sister it's alright to drop in more than once a year."

Once Ashtar left, only a pair of other customers came in that day. Danica used the time to catch up on a few things, and study a spell that had been confounding her for a week now. At last, she slammed the book shut and pushed it away — disgusted. She simply was not half the wizard her sister was — and never would be. Devan had learned this spell at sixteen, and Danica still could not master it.

No customers had entered for some time when Danica's normal closing time approached. She went ahead and turned the sign after a quick look up and down the street for last-minute customers. Once again, she hurried to close up shop — content in the amount of coin she had made today, and that she was on her way back to Robert's tonight.

She smiled thinking about that as she finished locking up. A quick bath and a change of clothes later, and she was on her way to Robert's.

It was hard for Danica to leave Robert that morning without making love to him again, but she had promised to be open on time, and was determined to live up to that promise. Danica took a few extra minutes to primp before opening, thinking every little bit of good impression couldn't hurt. She wore tighter robes than usual to show off her breasts, and left her hair down instead of putting it up as she usually did.

She placed Arrant's staff near the door of the vault so she could retrieve it almost instantly when he arrived, and arranged a few unique magic items she possessed on the counter, hoping to pique his interest in them. The items were powerful, and beyond the means of most who entered her shop. They were either gifts from her sister or the result of skillful trades.

When she was ready, she opened up the shop and saw the dark figure of Arrant already approaching from down the street. Danica went behind the counter and practiced a few smiles, trying to find just the right one to brighten his day when he entered.

Arrant swept into the shop like an ill wind, muttering under his breath. Danica said, "One moment sir and I will retrieve your staff. Feel free to look around."

She thought the trust she showed in leaving him alone in the shop for even a few moments might impress him, indicating that she knew him — and his reputation. She quickly retrieved the staff and brought it out to him.

Immediately upon grasping the staff, the wizard's eyes went wide, and he tossed back his cowl, "What have you done?"

Taken aback, Danica stammered, "I'm sorry sir, what do you mean?"

Running his fingers over the staff in a trembling caress, Arrant growled, "My wonderful staff, its power has been sapped!"

"You must be mistaken sir; that cannot have happened," Danica disagreed. She slipped into the second sight and suppressed a gasp. The glow from the staff still showed great power, but it had undoubtedly dimmed.

"Lies! Think you I know not the vast powers of my own possessions! The coin that will be required to restore this to its former glory is more than you will earn in a lifetime! I demand satisfaction!"

Danica panicked now. She had hoped to impress the influential wizard and better herself, now she faced possible ruin. If he spread word of this to others, she would be destitute in no time. "Sir, I do not understand how this could have happened, but I assure you I will compensate you for your loss. I have some unique items here..." she said gesturing at the magic items that she had set out earlier.

"Trinkets!" He screamed and swept them off the counter.

Danica started from the sudden violent motion, and quickly added to her offer, "They would be only a part, it will take time, but I can make payments in coin and other..."

"Silence! It would take a lifetime for you to possibly compensate me for the coin alone! How will you compensate me for the time the staff's restoration will require? What can you offer that will give me satisfaction for the terrible inconvenience you have lain upon me?" Arrant's eyes bulged wide with anger, burning into Danica.

Danica had only one real weapon left at her disposal — one she had used sparingly over the years, but one that had never failed her when she resorted to it. She hated doing it, because it made her feel cheap — even when she was attracted to the person she hoped to manipulate. Stepping around the counter, she let her hips sway as he scowled at her.

Once out from behind the counter, Danica loosened the ties on her robe nonchalantly. "Perhaps there is something I have here that you haven't seen, which might interest you," she said in a sultry tone, and let her robe fall open to reveal hints of her breasts.

For just an instant, amusement crossed the wizard's features. Then he snorted, and pushed her away when she tried to move in closer to him. "Foolish woman, such things do not interest me."

Danica pulled her robe closed and lowered her head, "I don't know what I can do, I don't understand how this has happened and I have nothing else to offer."

The man raised one hand to his chin and said, "Perhaps there is a way you can compensate me for this travesty."

"Please, let me know what it is sir, I would do anything to assure you this is not the way I do business and compensate you for your loss."

A smile crept across his lips, "There are a few spells I have never been able to acquire, hoarded away and kept from my grasp — no matter what I offered. I know where some of these spells can be found. If you were to acquire them for me, from the library where they are hidden just beyond my grasp, perhaps I might be willing to forget about this whole sordid affair."

Confusion crossed Danica's features. "If they are beyond your reach, how am I to attain them?"

"They are beyond my reach because I consider the risk to my reputation greater than my desire — great as that desire is. You, however, seem to have little to lose at this point."

Danica hung her head. If Arrant spread the word of this, her business with visiting wizards would trickle off to nothing. She would have to lean on her family to get by, and she couldn't bear the thought of proving she was a failure again. "I have no real choice. I will do it."

"If you succeed, I will forget this entire incident occurred. Fetch a pen and paper, and do cover yourself before someone wanders in."

Danica tied her robe and brought the requested items. Arrant wrote for a few minutes, and then pushed the paper across the counter to Danica.

"The books I wish to acquire are in the library of Zoraster Arias. These are the titles, instructions of how to reach his stronghold and the library, and even the location of the books within the library. With a little planning and stealth, you should be able to acquire them. You might even be able to conceal your involvement and return to your life if you are careful."

"I understand," Danica responded, while trying to fight back a sob.

Arrant pulled back up his cowl, and passed something else across the counter to Danica, it was some sort of small charm, the letter A within a circle, crafted in silver. "Hold this in your hand and speak my name when you have acquired the books. It will vanish to let you know the magic has worked."

Danica nodded, and with that, Arrant left her shop. She quickly locked the door and spun the sign, arming the wards there and upon the vault. With that done, she collapsed on her bed and wept for many hours.

When at last Danica mastered her emotions, she went back out and fully closed down her shop, though it was only midday. She gathered every single coin she had, dropped them in a purse, and then began packing.

Once she packed everything she thought she would need and could possibly carry, Danica locked the door to her home with a sigh of regret. It would be quite some time before she was able to return even if she was successful, because Montbank was far away in lands she had never traveled. Passage on a ship would be quicker, but was beyond her means if she wanted to have any coin left once she got there.

She absolutely refused to ask for help from her sister; though she had little doubt it would have been gladly given if she asked. Danica was determined to get out of this mess on her own, just as she had somehow gotten into it without help. She realized she might have no choice but to ask for help when she returned, because it would take coin she wouldn't have to reopen the shop — if she was ever able to do so again.

This is what I get for wishing to have some change, and excitement in my life, Danica thought bitterly.

Danica made her way to Robert's house, and found he was not there. Checking at the herbalist's shop he used as a base to ply his trade, she found he was away at a farmhouse outside the city.

She knew she would never leave if she didn't go before her nerve left her. Danica penned a note saying she had to go on a journey, and would be gone some time. She signed it, I love you — Danica, and handed it to the herbalist to deliver to Robert.

With that, Danica walked back out into the street and tried to figure out how to begin her long, frightening journey.

"I have ensnared another, Master Zoraster."

"Excellent, Arrant, I hope this one proves more useful than the others. Most have been little more than sacrificial lambs. While I need such, I also require some more useful pawns."

"This one seems somewhat resourceful, and willing to employ everything at her disposal when necessary. She offered her body to me without a second thought."

Zoraster laughed, "That sounds promising — was the offer worth accepting?"

"I would say so, and in fact I considered it. I came to the conclusion it would be better to refuse her and make her more desperate."

"A wise decision, and the sort of decision I expected you to make when I gave you this task."

"One I am happy to undertake, Master Zoraster."

"Seek others — I need many pawns to fulfill my designs."

"It shall be done."

Zoraster banished the image in his scrying mirror. "What have we caught in our web this time? Another gnat, or have we perhaps captured a butterfly this time?"

An image in another mirror caught Zoraster's eye, and he turned toward it. Within the mirror, he saw a woman with dirty blonde hair, on her knees, a man's cock engulfed in her mouth.

Zoraster sighed as he watched, seeing the fear and disgust in the woman's features. "Such a simple task, and yet you betray yourself. It is a pity you are yet another gnat — another lamb to the slaughter. It is no matter. You have served your purpose."

He pulled a small globe from a pocket in his robe and spoke into it, "Kill the woman as well, she has outlived her usefulness."

A voice arose from the orb, "Can I have a bit of fun with her first?"

"You may do with her as you please, but she must never be seen again. If she dies now, it appears to be connected to the fool's death, and is easily explained. If she — or her corpse — turns up later, there will be questions. Ensure that does not happen, or your suffering shall be great."

"I get it."

"Return for your payment when he is dead and you are done with her." Zoraster put away the orb, laughing as he concentrated on the talisman Arrant had given to the woman most recently ensnared. Soon enough, Zoraster would know all he needed to know about her.

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