Preludes Of Sigil
Chapter 1

Caution: This Fantasy Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Fa/Fa, Fiction,

Desc: Fantasy Sex Story: Chapter 1 - A paladin of a militant order finds love in the unlikeliest of places in Sigil, City of Doors and crossroads of the Multiverse.

Well met traveller - this is Sigil: crossroads of the Planes. But you no doubt already knew this. Who does not know of our great Wheel-City as it plies slowly upon itself, hoisted on the Spire which is the backbone of all reality? For Sigil is like an oval band suspended over the Outlands from which all Planes emanate. From a fixed location within the city, one can see the curvature of the structure as a whole as it folds into itself.

But to know Sigil, one has to live Sigil. To enter amidst the din and chaos of the city streets, to savour the planning (what planning?) of the single most untidy urban project this side of Xaos. If horizontal space is lacking, build up. If vertical space is lacking build between. Between dimensions, that is, for Sigil is the city of gateways. Gateways to all sorts of ripples and wrinkles in reality. Gateway to the Planes, to be sure, but gateway to all manner of unexpected places that haunt the dreams of sentients. So it is, Sigil the melting pot - no, the foundry of nations. No sentient race that has plied the streams of reality lacks a healthy representation here. But I get ahead of myself. To know life in Sigil, you have to live Sigil. This also means its inhabitants.

So traveller - prepare for a tiny, infinitesimal slice of what Sigil has to offer. Yet, I suppose it would in many ways be satisfactory. This is a city of incommensurable beings. Beings (I dare not say people) who live, hope, dream and love (often too much). A caricature perhaps? Perhaps, but in Sigil even caricatures have a cosmopolitan, fantastic quality. So allow yourself to be guided into the beating pulse at the centre of our humble burgh. I warn you now - if you have come for some depressing, long-drawn disquisition on the conditions of the working classes in the Hive you shall be disappointed. The Revolutionary League headquarters are not too hard to find should you be so inclined.

If you have come to read of picaresque exploits of heroes and plane-hoppers - I suspect you will only be partially disappointed. There are heroes here, yes, but heroes whose time has yet to come, will never come or would have come, circumstances permitting. Confusing? No doubt. But times change. Even Sigil changes for the wheel of time is everyone's master, even Sigil's. But enough fatalism, allow me to lead you through one of innumerable microcosms.

- the Archivist, your narrator

"... she swore by grass, she swore by corn

her true love had never been born... "

"Marséna, you are covering me, aren't you?" Virginia shouted as she gave the wooden door a third, hard kick. Splinters flew as the rusted joints gave way.

"Right behind you, oh ye of little faith," Marséna called out as she parried an incoming thrust with her longsword. Fighting in the cramped stairwell of a slum tenement in the Hive was never pleasant. Especially when the stairwell was under assault by half a dozen Anarchist thugs. In principle, they rejected all political and intellectual authority. In reality, the pecuniary demands of running a revolutionary faction imposed unsavoury activities: prostitution, racketeering, trafficking of persons and restricted substances.

The Civic Security Department, too underfunded to deal with so-called petty crime turned a blind eye to paramilitary organisations which volunteered to share the workload. Thus, the Order of the Radiant Path of the Vigilant Maiden, called, as stipulated in its Founding Axioms, to defend the honour and integrity of victimised, now found themselves in a decidedly tight spot.

"They're in here." Virginia called out, briefly catching in her field of vision the ragged vestiges of soulless women held in blackened manacles, before turning back towards the stairwell. Marséna, as reliable as ever, had already struck one dark-leather clad assailant down and stepped over him as the man lay clutching the welling lifeblood that fell from his body.

"Looks like you don't need the help," Virginia said grimly as she set herself at her companion's side, her sword wailing as it cut into an Anarchist's shoulder. The tightness of the stairwell gave both paladins of the Radiant Path the tactical advantage. Pressed shoulder to shoulder against each other, assuming a defensive posture that reduced the target for their enemies, they relied on the disorganised indignation of the Anarchists. Their indignation was great enough to throw caution to the wind, striking out at the armoured women with practised but ineffectual lunges that were soon blunted by patient, calm swordplay, and opening themselves for that final, cutting riposte that sent them reeling and then tumbling down the stairs. By the time Marséna had felled her second, the remainder of the Anarchist cell had decided that prolonged resistance would result in - at best - a Pyrrhic victory and withdrew, boots sliding frantically, into the lower reaches of the building before disappearing, in all haste, into the Hive Ward. Untraceable, to be sure, but they would certainly lie low for a while.

"No," Marséna said, recovering her breath, as she leant back on the wooden wall of the stairwell to take stock of the situation, "I probably didn't." She smiled wryly at Virginia, "But it's always a pleasure to have you by my side, superfluous or not."

"I'm flattered," Virginia replied, with irony but no malice. Marséna had matured into one of the most impressively effective - and elegant - fencers she had known. Her days as an insecure novice were quite evidently behind her. She now carried herself with enviable poise: her body was lean, athletic, with olive skin, lustrous, long corvine-black hair, and immersive, expressive brown eyes which some poets would have said betrayed the secrets of the depths of her soul. Her features were delicate; lips full and wine red, breasts and hips in the parsimonious generosity of a Classical sculpture - a visage which, in other worlds, would have been called a paean to the Mediterranean. Virginia knew they made a strikingly complementary team.

While Marséna had been born in the province of Overnha on the sun-kissed world of Mareterra, Virginia's ancestors hailed from the cool, misty lands of Ortho. Her complexion, pale as pearl, was testament to this. Her body was leaner still than Marséna's, more masculine, perhaps, but no less elegant. Fervid, green eyes were framed by perfectly blonde hair which had been succinctly arranged, in the manner of a page boy. Though Virginia's features were sharper, there was a richness to them in the symmetrical beauty of her face, still blessed with the freshness of very late adolescence which bridges into womanhood, and the inviting firmness of her body.

Both paladins wore the engraved breastplate of their order. This was forged out of silvery steel and adorned with a stylised star placed at the centre of a two concentric circles. Herein lay the symbolic summary of the doctrine of the Vigilant Maiden: the purity of the inner soul that reunites holds body and intellect into a single, inseparable whole. Honour, dignity and compassion had to be adequately represented in all three spheres to truly walk the Radiant Path of Salvation. Such was the principle; in that moment, however, all Virginia wanted was a warm bath and some silence, or at least some pleasingly inane banter with Marséna, just to remind herself that the world did not rest at the end of a blade.

"All done?" A melodious voice called from lowed down the stairwell.

"Goddess, Friyya, you took your time." Virginia snapped back. Combat situations were not something to be pursued if it could at all be avoided, even the notoriously sanguine Isobel, their unit vice-commander, had said, albeit grudgingly, something to that effect, "Get up here, let the prisoners out and bring them to the hospice. We'll have a look at the mezzanine."

"Coming, coming..." Friyya grumbled.

"Once you've caught your breath we can take a look downstairs," Virginia said, turning to Marséna.

"Anytime, then you can make me dinner." Marséna answered, irreverent as always.

Virginia nodded almost gratefully before descending the stair, Marséna close behind her. Friyya met them halfway down to the mezzanine: "I absolutely hate running in armour." she said, causing Marséna to sigh in irritation and Virginia to ask herself how she'd put up with Friyya for over five years of training in the same novice detachment. Friyya loved to poke, provoke, gossip and complain. She was also, as far as Virginia and quite a few others were concerned, impossibly beautiful with light, auburn hair, an elfin face graced by melt-water blue eyes, and an elegantly feminine body which not even her breastplate, greaves and gauntlets could much diminish. If she stared long enough, Virginia was certain that she could get lost in the pale silkiness of but a section of Friyya's thighs, bare and enframed between her boots and the breastplate's kirtle.

Then again, Virginia had begun to think the same of the maddening sensuality of Marséna's iodine skin against the silvery whiteness of her armour. It had been too long, Virginia resolved, since she had been given the opportunity for a truly unhurried amorous encounter. The new responsibilities of being a Consecrated Paladin, however, took precedence. This much, even in the rambling chaos of the Hive Ward with its shattered, misshapen, mismatched buildings from a thousand ages and drawn from a thousand schools of architecture, was certain.

"We're down to the mezzanine, there cold be some residual hostile activity there," Marséna specified, letting Friyya through to reach the upstairs prison chambers, "where's Syf?"

"Downstairs, holding the entrance, just in case the Rebs change their minds and come back for more." Friyya said curtly as she passed by.

"Typical, Goddess knows where you'd be without her," Marséna muttered: there was definitely an uneven distribution of duties between those two, and, she suspected, not only in field operations, "we'll meet at the building entrance when we're done."

The mezzanine was an abandoned storage facility, built as a communal warehouse for the inhabitants of the tenement who, in centuries past when that part of Sigil was still civil and functioning, had been the scions of a highly egalitarian culture from some distant part of the Multiverse. They were gone, but their narrow, space-efficient buildings, all clustered onto one another, were testament to a culture which placed society above privacy or individualism. There, in the musty pitch-darkness, Marséna and Virginia found nothing but disused, dusty fabric and silence.

"Virg, Light." Marséna said softly, her sword at the ready.

Virginia obeyed, intoning a soft prayer and allowing the light of her soul to expand outwards and fill the mezzanine chamber with a dull, lambet glow. Something stirred, deep in the fabric which, upon illumination, was nothing of the sort, but appeared to be a form of spiderweb, extending to every floor and wall of the chamber.

"Who goes there?" Marséna inquired, as the light allowed nothing but the most perfunctory identification of form or motion, "We mean no harm lest you mean harm to us." There were times in which Marséna's one-liners irritated Virginia to no end, especially when they incongruously popped up in tense situations which required less talking and more thinking.

"Far right, behind the web curtain," Virginia said, her keen sense of intuition suggesting that the rustling had come from that direction, "brush it aside, I'm behind you."

Marséna complied, stepping forward gingerly, the tip of blade reflecting the flickering Light spell as it shifted the silky material aside, revealing a niche in the corner. There lay a form, crouched low as if ready to pounce, clad only in a light shift woven of fabric that could have been a starless midnight.

"Pericla en set zel!" Marséna growled, "Dark elf!"

"Calm down, don't provoke her," Virginia said, surprised, but not thrown as she contemplated the figure before her, its visage obscured by a wild mane of thick hair, white as snow, "and, for future reference, cut down on the oaths - in any language." Marséna smirked in response, relieved, more than anything, that it was unlikely that the drow, in such a tattered state, posed any threat. Virginia, Marséna thought, no doubt sometimes envied Syf's doctrinaire, clean-living, clean-fighting, self-sacrifice approach. All fine and well for a paladin, but, then again, there were always Lathander and Tyr to worship should the Radiant Path strike anyone as too lax.

Turning to the drow, Virginia asked, "Do you understand me?" The dark elf girl was clearly startled, yet there was a self-possessed confidence about her demeanour, as if she were defiant, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

"Do you understand our language?" Virginia repeated, approaching slightly.

"Virg, it doesn't, let's get out of here before things have a chance to go wrong..." Marséna interjected, somewhat nervous at the development of standoff that should never have been.

"I... understand." Said the drow, very softly, her voice accented surprisingly lightly by her native tongue, "I like to think that I've managed to pick a few things up." Though not the most poetic of languages, Sigil's lingua franca had the advantage of drawing on a number of disparate linguistic stems, facilitating its learning by virtually anyone familiar with the major linguistic traditions of the Multiverse.

Now, for the first time, the dark elf looked up, her long mane of silvery hair parting, revealing a youthful, noble elven face, full lips like lavender, onyx-black skin drawn perfectly onto delicate, high cheekbones, her eyes glowing violet like embers in some alien fire. The drow stirred slightly, her strength had been much sapped by her sojourn on the surface of plane far removed from her own. Maybe her time had come to descend into the Demonweb Pits.

"Are you here for my life?" The dark elf inquired, almost wearily. Had she possessed the strength, she would have struck out with a blade or incantations, but only animals fought in her condition.

"Not if you do not wish it." Marséna said. "Stand up and keep your hands within our sight."

The dark elf complied, rising slowly, unsteadily to her feet, raising and extending her arms out to her sides. Virginia looked on, her heart still beating from the adrenaline of battle, her training told her never to drop her guard, to always prepare for the worst possible situation - particularly when dealing with untrustworthy races. Very few could be classified as more untrustworthy than dark elves. But there was something about the quiet dignity of the girl's demeanour that struck Virginia, that and the enticingly full breasts, larger than any she had seen on a surface elf, which were only marginally obscured by the gauziness of the charcoal black shift. Despite herself Virginia took a pause to swallow. It really had been too long.

"What, may we ask, are you doing here?" Virginia said, placing her hand on Marséna's sword arm, indicating that it would be best to assume a less threatening approach, "You must be far from your kin." Not that this was always a bad thing, Virginia thought.

"Close or far, my situation is one of constant fear for my life," the drow said with almost palpable rancour, "if you were to kill me now, I who am already dead, at least I would fear no more." If drow humour existed, it was gallows humour.

"We mean no ill will, look, my companion has set aside her sword," Virginia said, her tone immediately more conciliatory.

The dark elf took a glance at Marséna's reluctantly lowered arm and allowed herself a wan, sardonic smile, before stumbling suddenly to her knees as her strength failed her. Virginia caught her in her arms on her way down. There the drow lay for several long moments, breathing in the metallic scent of Virginia's armour, the softer smell of the skin beneath it mingled with the saline residue of sweat. It was almost surreal, like being encased protectively in metal. At once, she hated herself for showing herself in such a weakened state.

"Virg, she could have knife..."Marséna said, utterly surprised at the turn the situation had taken.

"She's tired." That was the only answer Virginia could muster. She had experienced her full share of surreal events for the day, but that instant was to the paladin like contact with an alien world: hesitant, fearful, but strangely full of promise. Virginia gently helped the drow to her feet.

"I could have a knife," the dark elf whispered as she clutched Virginia's leather gauntleted hand in her own, "but if I kill you, she kills me. What kind of deranged arithmetic is that?" She smiled again, enigmatically.

"I sense no violence in your intentions," Virginia gambled, she certainly had no inclination to be drawn into a dark elf mind game, she had to regain the initiative, "would you trust me for something to eat?"

"Not for food, but for the boldness of your opening." This paladin, the drow thought, has mettle, even if she is foolish - it would have been, admittedly, very easy to simply run her through.

"Then come with us." Virginia said, finally exhaling with relief.

"Are you insane?" Marséna protested, completely indifferent to the drow's presence, "Isobel will have our heads on a skewer! There's now way we can bring her back to Quarters."

"It's on my head, you can always tell Isobel it was my idea." Virginia retorted, as she moved to exit the room.

"If I'm complicit, I get tossed out too, you know..."

"Nobody asked for your complicity, just say you knew nothing about it and I won't object."

Marséna was taken aback. Not for the first time, of course - Virginia was an expert at making her feel guilty, especially since she knew that that Virginia knew that they would follow one another up through the gates of the Ninth Pit of Hell.

"Goddess, Virg, you know I'd never leave you." Marséna said with quiet regret. Of all the stupid things they had done together, and there had been many, this misguided act of compassion was almost certainly on top of the list.

"Then lead her out," Virginia called back, "and don't tell Friyya or we'll all be in for a long day."

Complying almost in exasperation with her friend's request, Marséna prompted the drow forward with nudge on the shoulder, her sword still drawn and ready by her side, "Come on then," she told the dark elf, as they exited the mezzanine chamber, "no funny games, alright?" It was more a request than an order.

They took the long way back to the Quarters which were situated in the slightly more congenial surroundings of the Temple District. Foremost amongst Virginia's concerns was to avoid Friyya and Syf - not that they were less trustworthy than Marséna, but the situation would, under present circumstances, have taken too long to explain. The drow did not seem to take too poorly to the dim light of day afforded by the overcast sky of Sigil. In other worlds, Virginia had read that dark elves would be incapacitated by the rays of one or more suns and that their clothing and weaponry, though infused with might incantations, would dissolve into dust and nothingness when it came into contact with the first rays of dawn. Sigil, however, had no Sun. Night and day were determined by varying shades of grey, the hours called by the great Bell Tower at the Hall of Records.

The Quarters of the paladins of the Order of the Radiant Path had been carved out of fair roseate marble imported from Elysium and, although the inner living chambers were spartan, the edifice had an air of dignified taste to it, so much so that it stood in relief when compared to its surroundings of highly ornate towers and impossible architectural follies dreamt up by the priests of more ostentatious gods. It proved relatively simple for the party to sneak into the Quarters through the stables and into the rear service stairway which led to the upper floors. Novices were confined to the bottom floors and limited to communal accommodation, Consecrated Paladins were entitled to more spacious lodgings, with shared bathing and cooking facilities and separate bedchambers. Silence filled the living area in that late afternoon, most novices were in the courtyard for drills or in the Temple for lessons. Virginia desperately hoped she did not run into any senior knight on her way up.

"It's strange," the dark elf said quite suddenly as Virginia unlocked the door to her apartment, "you bring me to a temple for what you believe is compassion. It's a little like a sacrifice, if you think about it."

"Quiet," Marséna growled, "this wasn't my idea."

"Easy," Virginia said, eager to ensure that Marséna did not cause the drow to feel cornered, "is Shesayne going to be home soon?"

"Possibly, but I'll speak to her." Shesayne had been Marséna's lover for the last six months. An impish, slightly eccentric half-elf who worked for a private organisation specialised in the retrieval of potentially hazardous enchanted objects, she had first caught Marséna's eye during a joint operation between her company and the Radiant Path. Despite Virginia's expectations, a touching understanding of both minds and sentiment had developed between the two, to the extent that Marséna had obtained appropriate dispensation to house Shesayne in Quarters. Considering the property prices in overcrowded Sigil, Shesayne had leapt at the opportunity, even if it meant sharing her living with a militant order of a religious nature.

"Here we are, then," Virginia said as she allowed Marséna to usher the dark elf into the communal kitchen, "I'll draw some hot water for you to freshen up and then prepare something warm. Please, wait here." The paladin carefully removed and hung up her breastplate, gauntlets, boots and greaves on her armour stand before proceeding, wordlessly, into the bath chamber.

Marséna followed her in, "You're losing it, Virg. She's not an honoured guest: there's a dark elf in our living quarters whom you met her less than an hour ago and now it's as if the High Priestess was visiting."

Virginia ignored Marséna for a moment as she heated some charcoal in a stove with a large cast-iron pail of water on top. "I thought charity was one of the Founding Axioms." She finally said, testing the water with a finger and, finding it suitably warm, poured it into the circular cedarwood bathing tub.

"It is. But I'm not stupid, Virg. This isn't charity. I know your eyes because you are a sister to me. Oelhos trayous, you can't fool me."

"That's the problem with both of us. We're so transparent. That's why we are paladins and not saleswomen. Bear with me on this, because I know I felt something when I held her. Something which could be a germinating seed. Give me time and, if need be, I'll tell Friyya and I'm sure Syf will understand. I know you know me, so you understand that I see things differently. Even when we first met, I took the unconventional view." Marséna knew this was Virginia's trump card: most of the novices had been of Ortho stock and a Mareterran amongst them certainly stood out. The two weeks before Virginia had befriended her, had unequivocally been the most unpleasant of Marséna's life.

"So, will you help me out?" Virginia inquired, breaking Marséna's brief recollection.

"Sure. We'll see how this turns out, me trigo." Marséna sighed.

"Good girl. Take off your armour, I'll run you a bath later."

"Will you join me?"

"Shesayne will be jealous." Virginia chided gently.

"I don't think she cares."

"Maybe, then." Virginia smiled as she leaned forward to kiss Marséna softly on the lips, "Now let me attend to this."

Virginia returned to the living area, and found the dark elf alone and bemused, contemplating her surroundings with an air of quiet perplexity which can only be found in those who have just been plunged into a fundamentally different existence. Her drow instincts told her to deceive, inveigle, fight covertly, to run and betray.

But there was an essential break in that logic. She was clever enough to know that what had been pertinent in the Underdark of a distant world would not be the most effective means of preservation on another. Existence, after all, was the imperative of all beings. She had fought to live so far, there was no reason to succumb to her more natural inclinations now. Not when salvation appeared in reach.

"If you wish, there's a bath ready for you," Virginia said, and the dark elf turned and nodded slightly, as if even that gesture of acknowledgement had to be forced from the inherently arrogant mindset of her race, "I understand you're tired, take your time."

"I'll be in my room if you need me," Marséna called as she tugged her boots off, before finally retreating behind the door of her bedchamber, "If Shesayne comes send her straight to me and I'll talk her through it." Marséna made herself sound weary to communicate her anxiety to Virginia, although it occurred to her that Shesayne would be just what she required at this juncture.

Virginia set to work on the kitchen counter, her hands setting to the task of slicing root vegetables with grim determination. There was something she found therapeutic in cooking, a process of creation which compensated for the destruction which inevitably accompanied the more brutal aspects of her work. Over time, she had developed quite a reputation and her fellow residents had grown to appreciate the great skill with which she turned the fairly mundane selection of ingredient presented as rations by the Order into ever-changing repasts. Above all, cooking gave Virginia time to think and in that moment, her thoughts were fevered, concerned only with the objective irrationality of her choice and with the burning compulsion that had overwhelmed her in that derelict tenement in the Hive. Perhaps Marséna had been right, Virginia thought, perhaps it was a form of madness.

In the bath chamber, the dark elf had gratefully discarded her thin shift, the last remnant of her patrimony from a noble house in the great and decadent drow city of Ille-Athalath. Since antiquity, her house had been known for the maddening brilliance of its spidersilk patterns which, in their disordered chaos, challenged the aesthetic mind more than any rational design. Now, that single black negligee was the last testament to a world which had disappeared, it was the last hated remnant of grandeur. There was, after all, no greater misfortune than that of once having been happy.

She now stood, naked, before the bath of steaming water, the charcoal stove filling the room with hypnotically stifling heat. She eased herself in the bath one foot at the time, absorbing the revitalising warmth of the water, the forgetful steam that now began to drift across the chamber. Revenge for having been found in such a weakened, pitiful state could wait. Anything could wait for this. Now all the drow needed was silence to realise that her body could once again be at peace with her mind and not the dull, throbbing, humiliating pain at the back of her head. Finally the restored mastery of her intellect would restore harmony to her being. Or so it appeared until the door opened.

"You don't mind, do you?" Virginia asked tentatively as she stepped in. The drow turned back to face her in bemused irritation.

"Depends on what you had in mind." The dark elf replied sharply.

Virginia entered all the same and knelt by the side of the tub, placing her hands on the drow's shoulders, holding her down gently near the level of the steaming water, "Nothing you would object to." The paladin replied, taking a washcloth from a small chest with numerous drawers, originally conceived to hold herbal medicines, at the side of the bathtub. She poured a small quantity of sweet scented, amber liquid from a small vial onto the coarse cloth, before gently beginning to wash the drow's shoulders in a slow, circular pattern. Virginia's hands were firm and knowing, seeking out every nexus of tension and slowly relieving it with precise and expert movements.

"Do you find my weakness appealing? Does it assuage your insecurity to treat me as a doll?" The dark elf asked softly, now conscious that Virginia's was scrubbing lower, her hands moving in a soporific, wave like motion down he breasts, over her belly, between her thighs and lower still to her calves. Each motion was partially obscured by the copious steam generated by the stove, but there was no demanding quality to the paladin's actions and certainly no invasiveness. It was if it were all a matter of fact exercise, like something she would do for a comrade in arms or a friend.

"No, not a doll," Virginia corrected as she set the washcloth aside and poured some of the same amber liquid onto the dark elf's hair, "I would treat you as a fellow sister." She began to massage the drow's scalp gently, revealing the elegantly pointed tips of the dark elf's ears. Virginia, however, could not help but notice that she stood before a most perfect example of female plenitude. Nipples pert and bright on her onyx skin like lavender crowned stunningly firm, full breasts, hips flaring naturally like the curvature of the softest hills of Elysium, this was an elf, yes, but one that was breathtakingly feminine - physically, at least.

Despite herself, the dark elf had begun to enter into the rhythm of Virginia's ministrations, allowing herself to be sublimated into the warmth of the room and the expert gentleness of her host's touch. "I hope you are duly impressed by my form. No surface elf knows the ascendancy of femininity as we do. You are all soft here, reliant on males."

"How many males did it take to pull you out of your hideout?" Virginia retorted as she rinsed the dark elf's hair with cupped hands, "Most importantly, is there a name by which I can call you. I don't like using 'you' all the time, you know."

"Talilissa... ," the drow replied and paused, there was no sense in adding her house's name now, "my house's fortress lies in ruins at the bottom of a sunless sea and its inhabitants with this exception are scattered dust and wind, so Talilissa is all. I shall not concede the honour of memory to those who were so weak as to be utterly annihilated."

"Talilissa." Virginia rehearsed softly.

"Lily." The dark elf replied a sardonic grin on her lips. Not only gallows humour in my repertoire, paladin - she thought - we'll see how you take to bad puns.

"I'm Virginia."

Half an hour later, Lily sat eating voraciously at the table in the living hall. The root vegetable stew turned out to be a resounding success as it satisfied the dark elf's hunger in a way no meagre surface food she had managed to secure so far had done. Now, dressed in one of Virginia's simple evening tunics, she tore a hunk of fresh bread, almost grateful that it communicated to her skin the same reviving warmth she had felt in the bath. In Marséna's room, the war council had convened. Syf had compelled Friyya to silence her hyperbolic whining with a single stern gaze and the raven haired paladin now sat on the far side of Marséna's bed, immersed in thought.

Though her features were not as soft as Friyya's, Syf was no less striking; tall, aristocratic and distinguished, with charcoal black hair cut halfway to the soulder and skin like polished ivory, she had a stern, aloof beauty about her which belied her youth. Like Virginia, her frame was taut, with high, compact breasts and slender, muscular limbs.

"Virginia, I trust your judgement," Syf said finally, her piercing blue eyes gazing into her sisters in arms one at the time, "if you claim that she is no threat, then this reassures me. However, should there be unforeseen consequences to your choice, the weight of responsibility should fall upon you."

The others almost always formed a consensus after Syf's pronouncements. She spoke little, but what she said was the product of much considerate thought, "Virg," Syf continued, her tone softer and more affectionate, "I cannot pretend that I would bear for you to suffer punishment beneath my eyes. You know this. I love you more than my life itself, but I love all my sisters present here equally and I cannot allow you to endanger their wellbeing merely on the basis of your intuition. But, as I have said, I trust you, so I shall remain vigilant, but I say that there be nothing to prevent your guest from staying."

"Are we all in agreement, then?" Marséna asked.

"Sure, dying young is romantic, isn't it?" Friyya replied sarcastically, "Shouldn't you check with Shesayne, too?"

"When she comes back she'll stick with our decision. She too is a guest, I suppose." Marséna said, nodding her head in support at Virginia. Now that she thought of it, Syf and Friyya were a perfect match. Without one another, they would be but lost souls, but together they had a certain harmony. When Syf decided, Friyya fell in line because, put simply, Syf had never disappointed. Order and joie de vivre, a perfect syzygy which needed no male; the Vigilant Maiden was no doubt well pleased.

"So it is decided." Syf concluded as she rose to her feet and offered a hand to Friyya, "My beloved, allow me to show my appreciation of your patience. Sisters, with your permission we take our leave." Friyya blushed slightly, and placed her hand in Syf's, as the latter immediately swept forward to kiss the upturned palm. The dark haired paladin drew her beloved inexorably out of Marséna's chamber into their own, the sound of the door closing followed soon after.

"Thanks... thanks for the support." Virginia said gratefully now that she was alone with Marséna,

"If Shesayne won't be back till late, I'll run us that bath, just give me a moment for now."

Virginia rose and stepped into the living area where Lily was intent on consuming her fourth bowl of stew.

"I'm happy you like it."

"I wish to sleep now." The dark elf said abruptly; the weight of sleepless, paranoid nights alone in the darkness with sinister, incomprehensible mutterings in the background had taken its toll.

"Please, use my room." Virginia said as she opened the door to her bedchamber. Although simple the room was small and functional, Lily was compelled to withhold a gasp of pleasure as a bed with a mattress, and blankets had been something which she had forgotten in the haze of the fire and ice which overwhelmed her family's stronghold in a past that now seemed impossibly distant.

"This... can work." Lily said as she stepped in; if this odd, if admirably gynarchic, cult was to sacrifice her, they could as well do it here with little objection from her part.

"If you wish to remain tomorrow, I would like to talk to you, a little... to know your story." Virginia felt the words tumble awkwardly out of her mouth. It had been a long day for her as well and as Lily sunk contentedly into a pillow she could only ask herself why this scene did not appear more natural to her.

"Good night, Lily." She whispered, not expecting an answer

"We should do this more often," Marséna sighed contentedly as she lay back into Virginia's damp breasts, feeling reassuring, familiar heartbeats beneath the taut, firm flesh, "bathing together can be so therapeutic after a hard day's work." The raven haired paladin admired the rippling effect of the misty vapours as they rose into the air, the hot water was lugubrious, rolling in long satisfying waves across her body at her slightest movement.

"It's always a pleasure," Virginia said absentmindedly as she ran her fingers through Marséna's hair, playing idly with the charcoal-dark tresses, "speaking of which, I'm sorry I haven't been much conversation, but today is weighing heavily on my mind."

"Thought so," Marséna said, almost indignantly at not having been the centre of attention, "you just figure out what you're going to tell Isobel. Syf says she was already pretty annoyed you didn't report in after the mission. We're not novices anymore you know, it's not ten strokes with the cane and it's over now..."

"Oh Marséna, you and your selective pessimism."

"Try realism, Virg," Marséna retorted.

"That's pessimist's consolation and her delusion." Virginia commented as she leaned forward to plant a soft kiss on Marséna's hair, now fragrant with the essence of Matreterran citrus chjna of which she was so fond, "Now don't spoil the atmosphere."

Marséna stirred slightly just to see the water ripple around her, "Ah, Virg quel varai, but you know I'm at your side, be it in battle or outside. Some trickster god has us cosmically joined at the hip."

"You're going to have to start telling me what you mean sometimes. I haven't the faintest idea of tongues from the human worlds. My mother, may she soon rest in peace, must have spoken Tervingian from Ortho, but I have only the faintest recollection of it. But I was born here, you weren't." Virginia knew Ortho only from books and oral history, Sigil, in all its cosmopolitan grandeur had been the only cultural world she had known. Marséna had however, resided on her homeworld until but a few months before she entered the Temple.

"It means being around you is always a fucking mess." Marséna purred, as she turned briefly to kiss the hollow of Virginia's neck.

"It's not my actions, but your mouth that's going to get one of us kicked out of the Order..." Virginia started before she and Marséna both collapsed into a stifled fit of laughter. Aside from them, after all, the Quarters were sound asleep.

Virginia sat at the table mesmerised at the sight of Lily eating a simple breakfast of oats cooked in milk - or chicken food as Marséna contemptuously called it. The dark elf's voracity could only be accounted for by the occasional, potentially arachnid composition of her diet in the slum tenement's mezzanine. But no, there was something else, something more vital and intense so much so that it bordered on the desperate. It was a desire to live to savour this brave new world and all the strange people in it.

It occurred to Virginia that the violent, unstable nature of drow society - such as it had been rendered in her lessons - was all good and fine while you sat on the top of pile, but should fortune commence its wicked dance of reversals, then the pioneer spirit in all sentients would inevitably re-emerge. As for Virginia, the morning hurt: she spent the night on the kitchen floor with only a blanket for warmth and now, with the first smoky air of Sigil's artificial dawn, she felt like ripping her shoulder off. Nevertheless, Lily was, to put it mildly, fascinating.

"I didn't think elves had such appetite." Virginia said inanely, for lack of anything more intelligent to comment upon.

"Drow." Lily growled, "And try living fifty-seven days amongst the cobwebs, yourself, you may find yourself likewise enlightened."

Marséna would have strangled her by now, Virginia thought, but, on the whole, a few barbs here and there were unlikely to offend her.

"So what are your plans?" The paladin inquired, changing the subject.

Lily set down her spoon briefly to centre her haughty, violet gaze into Virginia's eyes, "Would it please you if I stayed?" This was a probing question, impressively phrased by such a novice to Sigil's language, as it should have placed the paladin on the defensive.

"Yes." Virginia answered, without thinking, before catching herself in time to betray no further lapses in judgement.

"Then I suppose I have no choice." Lily said, affecting resignation.

"Great! Now is there anyway I could know my new acquaintance better?" Virginia gambled, hoping on the advantages of an amicable opening.

"The last time we confided with surface dwellers we were cast into the Underdark, no?" Lily said as she resumed her meal, the paladin, in the dark elf's mind, certainly had her mix of good and bad points. On the pro side she was a good patron, clearly powerful and influential in her own little context, on the con, she lacked refinement, wit and detachment. Of course, what could one expect, this was the surface world...

"Now you go around your business, Virginia," Lily continued, her host's name still familiarising itself around her lips, "I would require time to recover my strength."

And incantations - Lily though privately to herself, but discarded the idea for now, Lloth, as far as she was concerned, could still go hang in light of recent times. Prayer would be therapeutic for her, perhaps, but no more. Lloth - the fierce Spider Queen of the drow - had definitely abandoned her.

"As you wish," Virginia conceded and swept the plate from under Lily to place in the washbasin, "just make sure you aren't... bothered."

"From the darkness I came and to the darkness I shall, hopefully, return." the dark elf yawned as she ambled back to Virginia's bedchamber.

Virginia leaned back in her chair pensively, there, was ultimately so much to learn from this strange little subject which had only be taught to her as malignant evil in her Temple education. Yet Lily had shown a vulnerability which she, a proud being if ever there was one, must have found profoundly humiliating. The true nature of any person would require more time to extract from the circumstantial resentment and loathing which had, if possible, exacerbated the typically dark elven hatred and loathing in Lily. Or was it, maybe, a case of the opposite.

"Thanks." Shesayne interrupted, breaking Virginia's reverie.

"What?" Virginia replied, somewhat annoyed as Marséna's lover peered back at her from the side of the chair, the half-elf was wearing another of her controversial outfits, this time succinct leather top and short - very short - leggings made to emulate the colour and scale pattern of a red dragon. Shesayne's delicate, elfin face and big, curious steel-blue eyes scrutinised the paladin, a girlish, crooked half-smile gracing her cherry-red lips; the innocence of her face was deceptive, though, for the girl was a coil of action and energy.

"Thanks for the potentially fatal negligence to which we have been subjected." Shesayne spoke too quickly and had the irritating habit of brushing back her short cropped, dark hair whilst she did so.

"Huh?" Was all Virginia could muster.

"You know, the spider worshipping spawn of the light-averse goddess of the bottommost pits of the Abyss." Shesayne cocked her head slightly, not quite understanding why Virginia would be so startled all of a sudden.

"Yeah, I know, I thought Marséna was supposed to explain it to you." For Virginia it was, frankly, too early in the morning for Shesayne.

"She did, but just because I sleep with her doesn't mean I believe everything she says." Shesayne clarified.

"Can you just bear with this briefly... ?" Virginia said, almost in exasperation.

"For you, anything, but take it from an expert in magical item retrieval, the spirits of the vengeful dead are a bitch to deal with." With that the half-elf rose and granted Virginia a conciliatory kiss on the cheek before making her way out, leaving Virginia to ponder whether or not the weight of evidence was stacking up against her.

Later that day, after having cleared out the plates of the evening meal, Virginia made for her bedchamber to check on Lily. To her surprise, she found the dark elf sitting up on her, leaning on a pile of pillows, intent on reading a book of religious doctrine she had left by her bedside stool.

"The words are difficult to read," Lily said softly, much to Virginia's surprise she had actually initiated conversation, "languages are much easier to learn when heard, but I'm making my way through this."

If that was true, Virginia thought, the dark elf had some exceptional visual recognition skills, not to mention a keen intellect. But to survive in drow society that was almost certainly a basic requirement.

"I can help you, if you're interested." Virginia offered.

"No, I think I should be able to handle it myself." Lily said, her tone more diplomatic than it had ever been, "Not too long ago, my House was caught up in the civic strife which makes our cities as glorious as none other in the Underdark. Regrettably, we found ourselves on the side least favoured by our Lady of Spiders. Our holdings were first engulfed in fire then cast into depths of a sunless sea, never to re-emerge. So that I may live, I threw myself into a gate conjured by an ancient scroll I had found in my House's library. Hence, I am here, at the mercy of a human." The dark elf fixed her burning, violet eyes on Virginia with barely contained defiance, as if she had been saying are you happy, now that I cannot humiliate myself anymore?.

Virginia found some reflexive platitude in her head, but decided not to vocalise it. She stare back, meeting and embracing the dark elf's gaze. There was beauty there. A harsh, almost violent beauty to be sure, but Lily was magnificent. Her face, now stern and seemingly emotionless, had a natural elfin elegance, just as her features bore a truly aristocratic delicacy. Her body, like her lips, had an irresistible sensual lushness to it which seemed only to be emphasised by the simple tunic Lily wore moulding itself around her perfect curves.

"Is there something I can get you?" The paladin asked tentatively.

"Food," Lily replied matter-of-factly, "with meat, my cycle is at halfway." She felt that the further loss of blood had weakened her considerably, now at her most fertile she was at her most vulnerable, a sensation she well and truly loathed.

"Understood." Virginia said as she turned to leave the bedchamber.

"I heard you slept on the floor last night." Lily said, probing Virginia for a reaction.

"Yes." The paladin realised that the dark elf required no complex communication, this was a subtle game of information gathering - for both.

"Your bed is large enough for two."

"If... If it doesn't bother you." Damn, Virginia thought, she had slipped.

Lily smiled to herself, "Why should it?"

After Lily had eaten her fill, Virginia found herself in the awkward yet strangely tantalising position of drawing the bedcovers over herself with the drow beside her. Paladin and dark elf, Virginia thought, it sounded like the pretext for some bawdy joke. She lay there, rigid at first in the darkness in which she knew Lily had the advantage. The unspoken longing in her clawed at her soul; Virginia wanted to seize Lily fiercely in her arms and quench her burning lips against the dark elf's, all in the gentle womb of darkness. In the event, all she could manage was a muffled "Good night, Lily."

For her part, the dark elf stirred restlessly even as Virginia had fallen into fitful sleep. Her deep red eyes remained open, glowing gently in the darkness, scrutinising the ceiling she could see perfectly in the pitch blackness, then Virginia sleeping form which, though lacking the unique, bounteous femininity of a drow at least possessed the poise and elegance one would rarely find outside the Underdark. It was not so much the silence that frustrated Lily so much as the lack of energy. Was this woman not a warrior, a priestess and leader? Did she not know what ought to have been hers by virtue of her authority? Foolish or coy - Lily had yet to decide as she stared at the beams of the wooden ceiling and wondered what a strange, brave new world she found herself in.

The following evening, after a suitably restorative bath to cleanse the sweat from training, Virginia walked almost nonchalantly to her bedchamber, determined to become accustomed to the new presence within it. She knew that Lily could not live in her room forever. There would have to come a time in which either the dark elf left - permanently - or in which explanations to Isobel would be forthcoming; despite herself, Virginia found the former option by far the most painless. Her mind was still preoccupied with these thought as she carefully ran a bathing cloth over her hair to dry it. To her immense surprise, her room was actually marginally lit with a single mote of violet faerie fire which sparkled like a candle at the side of her bed. Lily stood beside it, wearing only one of Virginia's blouses which was too long at the waist and too tight at the bust, her arms crossed.

"Do you know what you want, paladin?" Lily questioned, as her hands fell to her hips.

"I think so." Virginia had stopped towelling her hair. She now realised she was in an unpredictable situation, far from her sword and breastplate, with only a cotton shift for proection. This was probably another drow mind-game; or something.

"Are you certain?" Lily took a step forward.

"I think so." A certain uncomfortable pressure had begun to build in Virginia's temples.

"Then take what is yours by right." If she doesn't get this, Lily though, I'll run her through myself.

"Wha-" Virginia started, before realising that the drought had ended in the strangest of freak storms, she would only be young, wild and irrational once. She embraced Lily with such passion that even the dark elf felt momentarily transported back to happier times. Virginia's lips were soon searing on Lily's, who needed no prompting but surrendered her mouth to the human girl's frantic kissing, their tongues like twin blades caught in a perfect fencing dance. All the while, in the lambent glow of the violet faerie fire, Virginia's emerald eyes lay open on Lily, testament to a boundless, irrational and unexplainable desire that had seized her, made her blood like molten lava and her skin like wheat fields under a heavy breeze.

"I burn for you." Virginia gasped, as she stripped her shift off and helped Lily out of the blouse, moaning in fevered relief as their damp, naked bodies pressed together for the first time, "I have burned for your since the time I laid eyes on you."

Lily was too busy kissing, her hands clasping the athletic perfection of Virginia's sublime bottom, as her tongue probed the paladin's mouth with expert, questing delicacy, before teasingly retreating so that she could bite down, hard on the human girl's bottom lip, "You're telling me?" Lily inquired playfully, as she eagerly dove into savour more of Virginia's mouth, her obsidian hands now roaming freely across the paladin's pale, burning skin.

"I'm sorry I took so long... repressed surface dwellers and everything..." Virginia almost cried out in pain as Lily bit her lip again, if it was hard enough to draw blood, she did not care, all she wanted was to become a single, cosmic whole with the dark elf, to fulfil all the blazing, yearning fantasies that had clouded the exiled recesses of her mind the last few days.

Virginia was intent on keeping the initiative as she thrust Lily onto the bed, licking in one long stroke down the dark elf's chin, throat, and between her beautifully full breasts, like perfectly half-spherical peaks carved out of onyx.

Now Virginia's questing tongue ran its course in the valley between them, before searching for a painfully erect, lavender nipple, the paladin's lips playing around the sensitive peaks teasing, sucking, before lowering her tongue - gently, gently - onto the aroused tip, circling slowly with all the desire of a lover who wishes the night would never end. Lily could only moan; they obviously knew a few tricks on the surface as well and so far Virginia was not disappointing.

The paladin's tongue roamed lower, alternating between teasing, lavish attention on each tormented nipple, she now slid down the drow's perfectly proportioned belly - like that of a dancer - and onto her hairless sex, already fragrant with the gift of her womanhood. This is surreal, Lily thought, as she contracted involuntarily as Virginia's tongue dived hungrily between the swollen, wet folds of her sex, the human girl's tongue expertly coaxing the nether lips apart, bringing her to spasmodic ecstasy in long, slow, deliberate licks. Lily seized Virginia's head firmly in her hands, her long fingers coursing through the paladin's magnificent, blonde mane, moving lower to tenderly stroke a cheek already damp with the residue dark elf's excitement.

Virginia, on her part, was eager not to disappoint, now that her tongue thrust freely between the impossibly wet, violet folds of Lily's sex, she was free to fully savour the exotic, slightly spicy, bittersweet taste of the drow. It felt as if she had discovered a new world, a new form of vital heat emanating from that velvety wetness like a single, delicate violet growing out of a field of onyx. Virginia could have spent an eternity there, between Lily's thighs, but there was work to be done.

The paladin's travelled briefly upwards, probing slightly before finding the stiffening bud of the drow's clitoris. She spared it not attention, just as Lily cried out, lifting her hips slightly, legs wrapping themselves gratefully around Virginia's neck. The slow, tortuous, licking continued as Virginia slid first her index then her middle finger into the dark elf's sodden sex, feeling the inner muscles contract at the intrusion and, most importantly, seeing Lily rejoice, squirming on the bed, eyelids fluttering.

Lily had never thought she would find such pleasurable solace so far away from home, but now, she could do little but drive herself further onto Virginia's fingers, her breath ever more ragged as the paladin's fingers found that spot deep inside her and began twisting against it in the most agonising manner. The driving motion of Virginia's hand, pressed vigorously against Lily's sex, and the insistent stroking of the paladin's tongue against her stiffened bud bring the drown to a frantic peak, her breath now only a series of laboured gasps, her heart throbbing like a primitive tribal drum.

Virginia continued her work, even after her lover's peak, as she feels the last spasms flow through Lily's body; her face and hand were drenched in Lily's thick essence and it felt absolutely divine.

Not even allowing the dark elf to catch her breath, Virginia drew her up into her arms and kissed her once again. Placing one leg over Lily's thigh, the paladin positioned her own dripping sex against her lover's. Lily can only emit a brief sigh of satisfaction at her lover's eagerness before her mouth was once again overcome by Virginia kissing the breath out of her lungs.

"You're rough against me," Lily moaned, her breath ragged as Virginia lowers her silver-tressed head between her perfectly compact, firm snow-white breasts, "you should shave your sex." Virginia replied by thrusting her golden haired sex against the onyx-carved smoothness of her drow lover, feeling her wet, aching folds finally satisfied by contact with the perfect, sensual beauty of the ark elf.

"That's humans for you, you may as well get used to it." Virginia said as she leaned forward to run her tongue maliciously over Lily's delicately pointed ear.

"Lloth!" Lily cried out as she gave a pained gasp, this human woman was exploiting all her weakness, all her sensibilities. For now, however, she was content with losing herself in the pristine whiteness of Virginia's breasts, so firm, each capped with a pretty pink, stiff nipple like a raspberry still on the thorn. Lily cannot resist tasting each in turn, feeling the hardening flesh beneath her tongue and, at the same time, hearing Virginia's quickening heartbeat as the paladin thrust and ground her sex rhythmically against her drow lover.

The friction between their nether lips was sublime, almost electric, and it was the communion of bodies and minds that Virginia had desired. Now, pressed breast to breast with Lily, their lovemaking measured in hard, eager thrusts, Virginia could only ask herself why she had not met Lily before, not earlier still when all this pleasure could have been hers for longer to savour. But now the, tension building insider her loins, her pink sex thrusting against the violet of Lily's, was all released in a shuddering, spasmodic cry as Virginia bit into Lily's shoulder, her release accompanied by wave after wave of intimate spasms she was all too keen to share with her newfound drow lover.

Lily felt her release a few short moments later and she was sure to let Virginia know by clamping down savagely with her teeth on one of the paladin's nipples for the duration of her ecstasy, drawing immense satisfaction in seeing the human squirm in pain and agonised pleasure.

"Turn around, face the pillow," Lily ordered, not allowing Virginia time to recover, "trust me."

Virginia nodded wordlessly, and leaned forward against the headboard of the bed, only to feel the warm moisture of Lily's tongue lapping down her spine before gracing the tight valley between the firm, tight cheeks of her bottom. Grinning mischievously, the dark elf kissed lower, her tongue gliding between the straining alabaster cheeks before finding the tight, pink star of Virginia's nether portal. Suddenly grateful and intrigued she had trusted her lover, Virginia spread her knees a little to allow Lily better access. The smell of sweat and sex filled the room. It was a combination Virginia thought long overdue. It was all in Lily's hands though and the dark elf was a mistress of pleasure, her curious little tongue now effortlessly probing the inner depths of Virginia's bottom, teasing the tight star of muscle apart as the drow's fingers spread the human girl's nether lips.

Continuing her diligent work on Virginia's bottom, Lily casually inserted a finger into the paladin's sex, probing and teasing in rhythm with the maddening action of her tongue.

"Goddess, Lily..." Virginia began, only to be stifled by an involuntary gasp as Lily grazed the tip of her clitoris with a single, casual swipe of her fingernail. She knew she would not last long. Then Lily unexpectedly withdrew her tongue from Virginia's bottom, only to replace it with two fingers which had been moistened in the fertile recesses of the drow's sex. Virginia sighed sharply at the intrusion and finally surrendered to a shuddering climax as Lily's fingers in her bottom made contact with those in her sex, pressing together against the sensitive membrane that separated them.

When she cried out, she knew the whole apartment, and perhaps all of Quarters, had heard her, but Virginia was beyond caring. All her universe now contracted on Lily's expert fingers and she simultaneously felt the dull, pleasingly uncomfortable pressure in her bottom and the sharp, aching, burning release in her sex. For the first time in months, Virginia slumped back onto the pillows of her bed wild eyed, sweaty and truly satisfied.

"That was indescribable." Virginia said softly, bringing Lily's face to her so that she could kiss those perfect lavender lips, "Come, dispel the faerie fire and let us rest, I don't think I could handle another one tonight."

"Then you're not drow yet, but getting there." Lily conceded, gratefully returning the kiss and dismissing the enchanted lambent, purple glow.

As they both crawled beneath the sheets which neither cared were damp with sweat and sex, Virginia wrapped her arms tightly around Lily's waist, drawing the drow close, so close as to hear her heartbeat, smell her hair, her skin, and feel her breath. Virginia held Lily close, almost desperately, gently kissing the base of the dark elf's neck, languidly stroking her firm belly.

"Virginia... did I not satisfy you tonight?" Lily asked, almost crestfallen, hoping that her efforts had not been for nothing.

"No! I mean, yes..." then the true implication of Lily's question dawned on Virginia, "no, silly, you were brilliant, I just thought you might like a cuddle before going to sleep."

"Why?" Lily asked, even as she surrendered to the gentle sensuality of Virginia's touch - this woman would, she thought, under different circumstances, have made a great matron-mother.

"Doesn't this feel good?" Virginia asked as she kissed Lily's cheek, stroking the dark elf's hair with a languid, soothing rhythm.

"Yes." Lily conceded, despite herself.

"Then that's why."

"You don't have to."

"But I want to, because you're mine." Virginia whispered before placing a playful kiss on Lily's ear. The dark elf shuddered in pleasure, both at the physical stimulation she would have expected a human to be utterly ignorant of and at the thought that this paladin was, at least in some respects, more drow than she would ever have dared imagine.

"Good night, Virginia."

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