Barren Harvest

by Darkniciad

Copyright© 2011 by Darkniciad

Fantasy Sex Story: Drought and crop blight have dampened the spirits and the hopes of Danica's community. It's going to be a long, hard winter, and it seems the Harvest Festival won't happen this year. Her teacher in the mystic arts reveals that there's far more to the festival than most know, and then she experiences the truth first hand. All the while, she has to struggle with her inability to tell her beloved that she's barren.

Caution: This Fantasy Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Consensual   Fiction   High Fantasy   Zombies   Oral Sex   Masturbation   Big Breasts   .

The muted light of an autumn morning filtered through the window as Danica pulled out one of her heavier red robes from a trunk at the foot of her bed. The floorboards were chill beneath her bare feet, and her nipples pressed against her blouse, still protesting the shock of leaving a warm bed.

She stayed well out of sight of the window, knowing that the farmhands would already be hard at work, despite the lean harvest. An unusually dry growing season meant that this would be an unpleasant and hungry winter for many. The Harvest Festival, always a high point of the season, already appeared as though it wouldn't happen this year. People were simply too depressed about what was to come, and unwilling to splurge in celebration what might be needed for survival.

Danica wrapped her robe around her and breathed a sigh of relief as it warmed. She hooked the buttons, tied the belt, and then selected a pair of stockings that would ward off the chill of the long walk to the school, but wouldn't be too warm within the close quarters of the small building. Once she pulled them and her shoes on, she finally felt comfortable for the first time since rising.

Either her hood or the wind would end up reversing most of the effort, but she sat down at the dressing table to brush out her auburn hair anyway. She reached for her brush, which always sat in the same place, and wrinkled her brow in confusion when it wasn't there.

Once, the reason why it wasn't where it was supposed to be would have been easy enough to figure out. Her sister had frequently grabbed whatever was closest at hand, and dropped it wherever she was when she was done with it. Devan had left for Destindale years before, though.

Danica glanced around her dressing table, moved a few things that might have hidden the brush, and let out a frustrated growl when it was nowhere to be found. She pushed back the chair in preparation to dig up one of Devan's old ones from the trunk of her things in the room, but then she spied the elusive brush.

Upon picking it up, she stared curiously at it, wondering how it had ended up on the windowsill. She couldn't recall even touching it since her bath the night before, let alone carrying it anywhere. She shrugged, and returned to the dressing table to finish the task at hand.

The house was quiet when she descended the stairs, which could only mean that Daniel was out with their father in the barn. The sound of humming from the kitchen made her smile, because it meant that her mother was feeling well this morning - something all too rare of late. The smell of coffee and sizzling pork drew her into the kitchen, her stomach rumbling.

"Morning, dear," Danica's mother greeted her, even as she sat down a cup of coffee on the table.

"Good morning," Danica responded, gratefully picking up the cup and letting the steaming brew warm her from within.

"Don't you dare think about running off to school without eating this morning."

"Trust me, Mom, I won't. It smells wonderful."

"Ready, too. I'll fix you up a plate before the menfolk herd in here."

"Thank you, Mom. I'm starving."

A minute later, a plate heaped high with eggs and bacon settled on the table in front of her. "No arguments. You're not eating enough lately. You're too blessed up top to be all skin and bones."

"Yes, Mom," Danica said and rolled her eyes. Her growling stomach was making it impossible to resist, anyway. She decided that she'd just have a light lunch to make up for it.

With her plate clean and her cup empty a short while later, Danica reluctantly pushed her chair back and stood up. After such a filling meal, all she really wanted to do was sit at the table for another hour or two.

Her mother's tone was conversational when she asked, "Have you decided whether you're going to stay on and teach at the school, Danica?"

It was really the last thing she wanted to do. Her sister had set the example, going away to study at a magic school in Destindale. Ever since then, Danica had dreamed of doing the same, though she wanted to go to Freeland. Rumor had it that some of the greatest teachers in the world resided there. The problem was that such grand aspirations required coin she simply didn't have.

Not wanting to ruin her mother's good mood, Danica answered, "For now, at least."

"I'd wager that your handsome young man would like you to stay around."

Danica couldn't help but blush. At some point during the last year, her mother had decided that she was officially a woman. With that decision had come frank and frequent discussions of marriage, sex, and all manner of other topics that Danica hardly felt comfortable talking about with her mother. It did mean that she didn't have to sneak around quite as much as her sister had to at her age, but it still made her skin crawl at times.

She suspected that the discovery she was barren might have influenced her mother's decision to give her more freedom. So far, that was a secret from everyone except the immediate family.

"I don't have a lot of choice right now, anyway," she said, and shrugged.

Her mother came over and reached down to take her hands. "Dear, you don't give yourself enough credit - in anything. You are beautiful. You have your magic. You'll find your place. Just give it time."

"I know, Mom," Danica responded, even though she didn't really believe it. She hugged her mother, and then said, "I need to get going."

"If the menfolk aren't already headed this way, yell at them when you go past the barn."

"I will," Danica said as she left the room and headed for the front door.

Her father, brother, and the farmhands were already on the way toward the house when she left, so Danica simply offered them a wave and continued on her way. A blast of autumn air made one decision easy for her. She shivered and pulled up her hood, her steps quickening toward the tree-lined path to the school, where the wind wouldn't be quite so fierce.

The gale was indeed stifled amongst the trees, but a sense of uneasiness washed over her soon after setting foot on the path. Disturbed by the feeling and still cold, she picked up the pace, her robes swishing and thrumming in the wind. The familiar sight of the school filled her with a sense of relief shortly thereafter. She hurried inside, leaving the cold and the odd sensation behind.

Danica winced at a horribly mispronounced word, as most of the apprentices headed toward the door. "That's enough for today. Keep practicing, and we'll try again tomorrow."

"Okay," the young student said as he closed his spellbook, and then went to join his friends filing out the front door.

Danica shook her head and rolled her eyes as the students left. If you would pay attention to what you're trying to learn instead of staring at my boobs, you would have learned this spell by now.

Even the thick robe she wore couldn't really hide her doubly-blessed bosom, as her mother often called her breasts. Though she'd more or less grown used to not making eye contact with any male beyond puberty, it was still irritating.

"Well, Danica, did you have any luck today?"

She turned toward the grey-bearded master of the school and shrugged. "Adina will probably be ready to cast the fireball tomorrow. After that, I won't be of much use in teaching her."

"Danica, Danica," he admonished, and then clucked his tongue. "You have a great deal of knowledge in both magic and life that you can pass on to another young woman. Be confident. It matters not if you're the most powerful in magic. Where you excel, you continue to amaze m e. In those areas where you struggle, you persevere. The best teachers are forever learning, themselves."

The argument was one that she could never win, much the same as disagreeing with her mother, so Danica simply nodded. "Of course, Master." She reached for her enchanted bag of holding, which she'd left hanging on a chair nearby, and found it gone.

A quick glance around the room revealed the bag hanging from a cloak hook, which she knew that she hadn't gone anywhere near all day.

The old master puzzled out what was wrong when she let out a sigh and walked toward her bag. He chuckled and said, "Ah, yes. The mischievous ones are certainly active this year. I am forever finding my things misplaced these last few days. I surely welcome the Harvest Festival, which will see them locked away for another year."

Danica turned toward him with a look of confusion. "You haven't heard? There probably won't be a festival this year, because of the drought."

Somehow, the pale old man turned even whiter, his eyes going wide. "No festival? No, no, this simply will not do."

Slipping her bag over her shoulder, Danica said, "I doubt there's any changing it. Everyone is just too worried about surviving a lean winter to make merry."

"There is far more to it than that, Danica," he said. "Come, I have an important lesson for you that is too long in coming."

Curious and perplexed, Danica followed her master into his private quarters at the rear of the school. As always, she marveled at his library. Though humble by the standards of a wealthy wizard, it was the greatest collection of magical works for miles around.

"Please, sit down," he suggested, and let out a groan as he pulled out a chair for her.

Danica took her seat, and her master walked to the shelves to select a book. He flipped through the pages of the aged tome as he returned, and then stopped when he found what he was looking for.

"The Harvest Festival is no simple celebration, though that is how those who know the truth present it." He laid the book in front of Danica, and then took a seat as well.

Danica studied the yellowed page, which bore the heading, The Ritual of Harvest. To her amazement, she discovered that the traditions always known to her as decoration and fun activities for a party were in truth parts of a ritual spell. Her cheeks warmed when she saw that even the 'secret' tradition of young couples sneaking away to enjoy some private time during the festival was part of the magical ritual.

The master explained as she read through the page. "Long ago, when my grandfather's grandfather was but a babe, the ritual was created, as a barrier against the night.

You know that the night which begins the Harvest Festival is one of great magic - especially dark magic - but the truth is far more disturbing than that. The veil that stands between the worlds of the demons and the dead grows thin that night. In times long ago, it was a night of horror, and of death."

Danica looked away from the book, finding her master's telling far more engaging than the words on the page.

"Those who served the gods of light and those who shunned darker magics found that they could not stem the tide of evil, which grew stronger each year. In a spirit of cooperation never seen before - or since - they put aside their differences for the common good.

Even then, their efforts were not enough. It was only when a witch approached them, having had a vision of their effort, that hope found purchase in the world."

That stunned Danica. While those who worked magic were sometimes mistrusted, those who practiced witchcraft were almost universally persecuted, no matter the nature of their deeds. To have three such disparate and often opposing groups come together was astounding.

"The rituals brought by the white witches and warlocks form the heart of the magic that is the true purpose of the Harvest Festival. It allows those of good heart, though unskilled in magic, to aid the guardians of the veil."

"So, what happens if the festival is cancelled this year?"

"Perhaps little, though I fear that the hordes of the night wait in anticipation, after so long kept from sating their hunger. It is a risk we cannot afford to take. As long and hard as the winter might be, it will be longer and harder still, if the Ritual of the Harvest is not observed."

Having studied with the master since she was young, Danica knew to trust his knowledge without reservation in any matter related to magic. His dire warning was enough to make her stomach go sour. "What can we do?"

The old man scratched his chin and stroked his beard. "Let me speak with some old friends. We could do little alone, but perhaps the spirit of cooperation that once saved us from the encroaching night might yet be reawakened."

He waved a hand in a dismissive gesture, trying to look a little less concerned - and not doing a very good job of it. "For now, just..." His eyes lit up with genuine pleasure as he trailed off. "Oh! I nearly let it slip my mind yet again. Wait right here my dear."

The elderly wizard stood up with a cracking of joints and a quiet groan. "I meant to give this to you some time ago, but I only just completed it. I'm not as young as I used to be." He crossed the well-worn wooden floor for a few steps to his work table, and picked up a small ivory box.

"I gave one of these to your sister just before she left. It is a special gift that I give to those in whom I see great promise. Whether you believe it or not, you are deserving. I would ask that you not speak of it with other students, past or present."

Danica accepted the box, more than a little surprised that the master had given Devan something that her sister didn't brag about. When he gestured for her to open the box, she removed the lid and gasped.

Within rested a ring, set with a translucent blue gem. Though simple in construction, it was nevertheless beautiful. Danica now recalled a similar ring that Devan wore, set with a gem the color of flame.

The master explained, "It is not a great magic, but useful. Once - and only once - this ring will turn away a spell intent upon doing you harm. The ring can also act as a spell vessel."

Danica's mind boggled at the power of the ring. The ability to turn away harmful magic was enough, but the spell vessel enchantment would allow her to cast a spell on the ring, and then release it with a thought a short time later, even if she wasn't wearing the ring at the time.

She knew better than to say that she was undeserving of such a gift, and so slipped it on her finger. "It's beautiful. Thank you."

"Even more beautiful now, I think," he said and then winked, making her blush.

Danica closed the ivory box and slipped it in her bag of holding, though she doubted that she would remove the ring very often. On a whim, feeling giddy from the gift, she leaned in to kiss his cheek.

The old man smiled, color rising into his face. "Tomorrow. We will speak more of the festival then."

That sobered her a little. "Tomorrow. Goodbye, Master."

"Fear not. I have confidence that all will be well. Goodbye."

She couldn't help but admire the ring on her finger as she walked home. As with everything else in her life, she wondered what Jared would think of it. He should be returning from a week-long hunt this evening, and she was eager to see him.

Thoughts about her handsome beau of two years put a little extra spring in her step, and pushed away the dark musings of what the aged wizard had revealed. She hurried home to pick out something pretty to wear for her man.

The wind had mercifully died down during the day, which gave Danica a little hope that her hair wouldn't be a disaster by the time she reached town.

Normally, she would have seen wagons laden with sacks of grain, pumpkins, and squash all along the way as she walked the road to town. That absence and the unusually high winds having stripped the trees of leaves early this year made the walk lonely and gloomy. What she'd learned about the importance of the Harvest Festival didn't help, either. On top of everything else, she felt as if someone was watching her as she walked. It was similar to the feeling she'd experienced the day before, but stronger - more focused.

If not for the promise of seeing Jared after a long week apart, she would have turned around and gone straight back home.

Few people were in the square when she reached town. A few die-hard couples and hopeful teens had left the warmth of their homes, but most had apparently chosen comfort over flirting and courting. Danica saw only a single pumpkin lantern on a porch, with virtually no other signs of the Harvest Festival evident. She couldn't imagine what anyone could do to save the festival at this point, with the traditional beginning only a few days away.

The sight of Jared's house finally cut through the melancholy descending on her to lift her spirits. She stepped over the first step up to the porch out of habit, even though Jared had finally fixed it a month ago. A smile crossed her face as she looked at the bench on the front porch. Before he'd left on his last trip, she'd given him a going away present with her mouth. Though the hour had been late, she'd found the possibility of someone catching them surprisingly exciting. She could still hear his stifled groans as he exploded in her mouth with his father sleeping only a few feet away.

A glance in the window revealed two important things. Jared's bow was hanging from its rack, which meant that he was home. His father's bow was also missing from its place, which meant that he wasn't.

Danica shivered as her nipples stiffened. She had expected Jared's father to be home, and the weather discouraged sneaking away into the woods, something the couple did frequently in warmer weather. The possibility of a much more intimate reunion than she'd expected quickened both her breathing and her steps.

As soon as she opened the door, Danica could hear splashing from the mud porch at the rear of the house. She let out a little moan, knowing what the sound meant, and crept on her tiptoes through the house. She unbuttoned her woolen jacket along the way, and draped it over the back of a chair in the front room. After a quick adjustment of her breasts, well displayed by the low neckline of her blouse, she stepped into the short hallway leading to the mud porch.

A shudder ran through her as she peeked through the doorway. Jared was standing next to the wooden washtub, his head covered by a towel as he dried his hair.

His head was the only thing that was covered up.

The muscles in his chest, made hard by drawing his longbow and hauling deer up into trees to field dress them, rippled as he worked the towel. His cock swung back and forth in the most hypnotic way, making her tingle all over. He turned away just before he whipped the towel off his head, giving her a perfect view of his gorgeous butt. Despite being damp and fresh from the towel, his blonde hair stood up in spikes, looking artfully mussed as it always did.

She was still admiring him with a sultry grin when he turned around and saw her.

"Shit!" he exclaimed as he started from her unexpected appearance.

Danica chuckled as she walked toward him and said, "Sorry. I can't believe you let me sneak up on you like that."

He let out a nervous chuckle as well. "I guess it's a good thing you weren't a bear or a big cat."

With his eyes falling directly into her well-displayed cleavage as he mentioned cats, Danica thought, I know my pussy is hungry for you.

"Danica, I..."

Whatever he planned to say vanished into her needy kiss. Far from the virgin he'd deflowered two years ago, Danica had matured and gained confidence in her sexuality - at least when she was with him. She knew exactly what turned his knees to water, and he knew her body as well as she did.

Jared's hand found her bottom as their tongues danced, and Danica's hands roamed all over his bare, muscular back. She soon needed more, and stepped back to stroke her fingertips over her tightly bound breasts.

"Do you like it?" She asked, her passion-filled eyes locking with his.

"You look incredible," he replied, his voice husky with desire.

"I wanted to give you a nice welcome home," she said while backing out of the room, her hips swaying to make her skirt dance.

He followed, stalking her as he would any prey, his cock now hard and throbbing. Danica turned into his room and reached his bed with two quick steps, but he caught her before she could sit down on it.

Danica moaned as he kissed her neck and wrapped his powerful arms around her to squeeze her breasts. She could feel his cock throbbing against her skirt-clad bottom - so hard and eager. Even though she still felt twinges of regret from learning that she would never have children, she couldn't deny the exhilaration of completely spontaneous encounters with her lover whenever the moment was right. Her magic explained why it was safe to do so, because she hadn't yet found the courage to tell him the truth.

She sucked in a sharp gasp when he jerked down the front of her blouse to make her breasts pop free. Her back arched as he cupped the heavy globes in his hands and squeezed again, his fingertips finding her nipples as well.

His right hand left her breast and grabbed her left arm so quickly that Danica let out a yelp of surprise as he spun her around to face him. Before she could catch a breath, his lips locked around one of her nipples.

Danica panted as he sucked the stiff bud hard, his tongue tickling it all the while. A chill shot through her as wetness flooded her sex, brought on by the direct connection between it and her sensitive nipples. She found just enough presence of mind to kick off her shoes.

For long seconds, Danica simply reveled in him suckling her breasts, so forceful and controlling, yet springing from his knowledge of her desires. He switched back and forth without warning, sometimes lingering, sometimes barely swiping the turgid points with the tip of his tongue, driving her into a fever-pitch of need. She wrapped her fingers around his cock and stroked it in a tight grip, making him groan around her nipple.

Danica stepped back, her nipple leaving his lips with a loud, wet slurp. She was wet, aching, and felt stifled by her thick skirt. She was also anxious to see his reaction to what she was wearing beneath the pleated cloth. Jared pulled the tail of her blouse free almost as soon as her nipple escaped him, and she let him pull it over her head.

Her breasts jutted provocatively toward him as she popped open the two buttons on the back of her skirt, and then slipped it past her hips. The surprised delight in his eyes as he saw her surprise made her shiver.

The panties were a gift from a seamstress in town, in thanks for Danica's use of magic to help carry water to the woman's garden. Cut high on the sides, they displayed her legs well, and put emphasis on the lacy white material between. Danica stroked her hands over her hips, and then around to her panties. "Do you like them?"

He answered with a rumbling growl of desire, and then squatted down to lift her effortlessly with one arm beneath her bottom, and the other behind her back. He lay her down with the same ease, and then crawled over her body to kiss her.

Danica moaned as his lips left hers and latched onto a nipple again. She parted her legs, and he moved his knees between one at a time, never releasing her from his sucking lips. His hips shifted forward, pressing his cock firmly against the damp cloth of her panties.

Normally, foreplay between the couple lasted for quite some time, as Jared loved to worship her breasts - which was just fine with her. Tonight, she was too caught up in the rush of arousal, fueled by not seeing him for a week.

"I want you deep inside me," she pleaded with sultry need.

Danica lifted her bottom when he sat up over his knees and curled his fingers beneath her panties. A quick pull and a toss sent the lacy cloth to the floor next to his bed, revealing her newly shaven pussy and the manicured red curls on her mound.

Jared leaned over her, pushing her legs back with his chest. Once he settled onto his hands, the tip of his cock pressed against her nether lips and he sank inside her.

Danica let out a deep groan that he echoed as his cock filled her saturated pussy, slipping easily into her depths. He hesitated for only a fraction of a second once his balls settled against her bottom.

"Ah! Yes!" Danica cried out as his cock slammed home. The power and urgency of his need surprised her, though it matched her own. The feeling of fullness and hot friction caused the fingers of one hand to curl into claws, gripping the quilt, while the other moved between her legs.

After a few strokes, he pushed off the bed and grasped her thighs. His cock pounded even harder into her clinging sheath, causing her breasts to quake and the bed to creak in protest.

Danica wasn't protesting in the slightest. Though she adored when he made love to her, she couldn't deny the thrill of him taking her, expending all of his lust in animalistic need. With only the most minimal change in his grip on her thighs, or a little movement of his knees, his cock stroked new pleasure centers, making her sex tingle with electric jolts of bliss.

His body collided with hers at a relentless pace, his balls slapping against her ass, and the headboard of the bed banging against the wall. Danica's fingers pressed against her clit, though she only stroked it slowly, allowing his slick shaft rubbing against it to do most of the work. Chilly pinpoints accompanied the swelling pressure behind her mound, though the rest of her body felt hot, and growing more so by the moment.

She knew that she was going to come soon, and come hard.

"Oh! Oh! Oh yes! Oh yes!" she cried out as her pleasure mounted, knowing how hearing her voice her pleasure affected him. "S-so good. So close. Oh yes!"

"Ah yeah," he groaned, his eyes fixed on the ecstasy tightening her features.

"Oh baby. Oh yes. Ah! Yeah! I'm gonna ... I'm gonna..." A long, high-pitched moan stole her words as she teetered on the edge of sweet oblivion. She had just enough time to suck in a fast breath before it rushed back out as a scream.

Danica's toes curled and the hand clawing the quilt lurched as she exploded into climax. Her womb and walls both clenched tight, but the resistance of her tight canal wasn't enough to slow his thrusts. After the initial burst of orgasmic energy released her and her body went limp, staccato shocks of bliss ripped through her, in time with his hard cock plunging into her depths.

Jared's breathing turned rapid and loud, mixed with grunts of exertion. During the brief moments when she could keep her eyes open, Danica could see his chiseled features tightening. The jolts of exquisite agony causing her head to lash on the bed grew ever closer together, until she felt almost numb, barely able to catch her breath. Her mouth hung open in a silent scream, her heart pounding in her ears.

And then she came again.

It was no mere facet of her first orgasm that tore through her, but a second climax taking her before the first could even fade away. She knew she was screaming, but she couldn't hear it. His hips slammed forward one final time, and she could feel him pulsing, filling her full of cum, but her orgasm ruled her, stealing every other sense of the world around her. She just kept coming, and didn't even have the presence of mind to wonder if it was ever going to end.

By the time the world snapped back into focus again, Jared had rolled off of her to gasp for breath, his pussy-slick cock softening. She felt fevered, and sweat dampened every inch of her body. She let her clenched thighs drift apart, and lifted her hand away from her still-quivering pussy. A sticky mixture of her juices and his cream covered it, with more dribbling down her bottom onto the bed below.

It still took long minutes for Danica's mind to truly work again, even as her senses returned. "Oh my, you came a lot," she said in a soft, languid voice, realizing just how much of his creamy offering was seeping from her.

"Thought I was ... That I wasn't going to stop," he groaned.

Danica moaned. "Me either. Gods, I came so hard." She snuggled over closer to him, and he slipped an arm beneath her to hold her. Even though she knew that the wet spot on the bed would grow chill and clammy before long, she was determined to simply enjoy the afterglow of her orgasm and his arm wrapped around her for as long as possible.

In the end, it was a desire not to explain her lateness to her mother that finally pulled her from his bed. He was snoring like a bear, forcing her to stifle a chuckle behind her hand. After covering up the surprisingly large wet spot on the quilt with a blanket from beneath the bed, she kissed him on the forehead and started looking for her clothes.

That didn't prove so easy.

Her skirt, which should have been at the foot of the bed, had moved into the hallway. Her blouse eventually turned up in his father's bedroom, much to her embarrassment. She gave up on her panties and washed before heading home, only to finally discover the lacy undergarments stuffed into one of her shoes. The mischievous ones, as her master called the poltergeists, were hard at work.

The Harvest Festival couldn't come soon enough.

Danica was still tingling the next morning when she arrived at the school. Everything she could remember from the previous night played through her head, no matter how hard she tried to push it away, due to the effect it was having on her. It finally took seeing her teacher speaking with two other aged men outside the school for curiosity to overwhelm her remembered bliss.

"Ah, welcome, Danica," the master greeted her. "I am sending the students to the cave to gather crystals for a light enchantment. Would you mind watching over them, and helping to eliminate crystals with flaws that will weaken the magic?"

"Okay," Danica answered, wondering about the task. Nearly all of the students had learned the light enchantment long ago, during their earliest lessons.

Sensing her unasked questions, the elder wizard said, "I will reveal more upon your return. Have each student gather five crystals."

Danica nodded her understanding, but she was even more curious now. Even the relatively simple enchantments would take up more than a day, if each student did it five times. Upon reaching the cave, she didn't have time for further speculation. As the only senior student and assistant who hadn't yet left the school, she had her hands full.

The cave was warded and well lit, but still had its dangers. Danica had to split her time between watching over the younger students and evaluating the crystals that everyone gathered. She was much relieved when the last student exited the cave and followed the river-rock path back to the school. Upon entering behind the boy, she was amazed to find the school filled with pumpkins.

Blight had made that harvest even worse than that of other crops. If what she'd heard was true, the amount of the orange fruits inside the building could very well represent the entire crop from the region. The sound of a prayer chant attracted her attention, and explained the pumpkins as well.

An old priest prayed over a pumpkin, beseeching his god, and then suddenly there were four. There was no flash of magical power. The copies simply appeared, giving her the impression that they were there all along.

"The first step, my dear," the old master explained as he walked up next to her. "Clantilas' god will give him the power to do this, and more. Others have tasks as well. The gods share our concern, and will aid us in this."

Danica speculated, "So the crystals are for pumpkin lanterns?"

"Indeed! Indeed! First we must awaken the spirit of the festival in people's hearts. My hope is that the magical lanterns might aid in this, and they are an important part of the ritual, as well."

"We'll never be able to enchant all the crystals and carve the pumpkins today, though," Danica said. She had to admit that the excitement of the students about a sign of the festival that they had given up on was heartening.

"We will concentrate on enchanting the crystals today. With our aid, and that of the older students, we should finish in plenty of time. I fear to send the pumpkins home whole, as they will more likely find their way to a table than a porch."

Danica nodded her head in agreement. "I suppose we should get started, then."

The old master cracked his knuckles. "To the task. To the task."

Danica was in an especially good mood when she returned home that afternoon. She'd managed to enchant one of her light crystals with an amber glow that sometimes danced like a flame, and other times sparkled fancifully. It was the most difficult thing she'd ever attempted with the enchantment, and it had come easily to her.

Every student had worked hard, and many of the crystals were complete. All this despite the poltergeists moving spell components, crystals, and everything else that was out of sight for a few seconds. Tomorrow, that part of her master's plan to revive the festival would be ready.

The thought of seeing Jared again tonight also made her feel like skipping as she walked up the well-trodden dirt path to the house. Her mother was hard at work with a pair of knitting needles when Danica entered. The older woman held up the nearly finished garment and asked, "What do you think?"

Danica smiled, knowing that the sweater could only be for her. "Won't it be a little tight up here?" she asked, tugging at the bosom of her robe.

Her mother winked and said, "That's the idea, dear."

Danica laughed, though her cheeks turned quite red as well. "I'm going to see Jared, if that's okay?"

"Of course." She then looked around as if checking to see that they were alone and asked, "Should I expect you to be late, or expect you at all until morning?"


The elder woman returned to her knitting with a chuckle. "I was young once, whether you believe it or not. Run along and pretty up for your man. Don't forget to eat something."

"Okay," Danica answered, feeling thoroughly scandalized as she hurried to her room, grabbing a pitcher kept near the fireplace along the way. She poured the warm water into her wash basin, and then undressed to wash before changing.

As she pulled off her clothes, she winced. Though she'd tried to ignore it all day, she knew that she had been a bit too enthusiastic - and so had Jared. She was sore, and that meant that she wouldn't be having any of that sort of fun with him for at least today.

She was still anxious to see him, though. With her original plans for the evening thwarted, she chose a conservative sweater and skirt that wouldn't tease him too much. The garments did have the advantage of providing a great deal more warmth than what she would have chosen otherwise.

For reasons she couldn't quite put her finger on, Danica felt extremely uneasy as she walked the road to town. Though she should have been quite warm, goose bumps prickled her skin at about the halfway mark in her journey. The words of a magic missile spell bubbled to the forefront of her mind, an offensive magic that she could cast quickly and with great accuracy. She picked up her pace and her gaze darted everywhere, seeking a threat she felt rather than saw or heard.

Eventually, the feeling eased, but not before she caught a hint of something that smelled corrupt - dead and rotting. Her nerves settled a little as the first few buildings of town appeared around a bend in the road, and she assumed that her uneasiness was from smelling some dead animal and only recognizing it when she was close.

Danica wasn't sure if it was her new knowledge of what the annual festival was meant to combat, but she still felt somewhat on edge. The wind kicked up as she neared Jared's house, feeling chill and ominous. She hurried to the door, eager for the warmth and security of Jared's house - and his embrace.

He let out a groan in response to the chill when he answered the door. "Come in, it's freezing."

A powerful shiver ran through Danica when the door closed, and the heat of the fireplace replaced the icy bite of the wind. It wasn't nearly enough to chase away the cold hand of foreboding around her heart.

Standing on her tiptoes to kiss him did the trick, though.

As their lips parted, Danica noticed Jared's pack sitting in a chair. Several obviously new arrows were also lying on a table near a sharpening stone. "Are you leaving again so soon?" she asked with a pout.

"Not too long," he answered, his expression apologetic.

"You're at least going to stay through the Harvest Festival, aren't you?"

"I wasn't going to go until afterwards, but there isn't going to be a festival, from what I've heard."

A crooked grin spread across Danica's face. "I wouldn't be so sure about that."

Jared's eyebrows crept upward, but Danica cut off his speculation with another kiss. Even though she'd made every effort to avoid it, and had no intention of teasing him, she couldn't help but kiss him hard, pressing her body against him. Though he seemed a little stiff at first, he melted into the embrace and let his hands roam over her.

Things progressed rapidly, but when Jared cupped her sex through her clothing, Danica pulled away.

"Sorry," he apologized.

"No, it's my fault. I'm ... I'm a little sore." Feeling bad about teasing him, and too worked up to completely push it away, she smiled and said, "That doesn't mean that I can't do something for you, though."

He opened his mouth as if to speak, but not a word passed his lips. Danica smiled as she let the sweater that she'd just removed fall to the floor at her feet, cupped her breasts in her hands, and sauntered toward him.

She grabbed the front of his trousers when she reached him, and moaned when he responded by caressing her right breast. Her fingers slipped to the knot holding his trousers up and pulled it loose, even as she guided him to turn around.

His eyes full of desire, he stepped closer to her when she sat down in a chair. Danica jerked down his trousers and licked her lips at the sight of his hardening cock. He knew exactly what she was doing, and she loved how much it turned him on.

"Mmm, baby," she moaned as he nestled his nearly erect member between her breasts and squeezed them around it. She worked loose the buttons on the back of her skirt at the same time, allowing enough slack for her to slip a hand beneath the pleated cloth.

Danica gave his swollen tip a flick of her tongue when it thrust out from between the confines of her breasts. "Uh huh, baby," she encouraged him while she wormed her fingers beneath her panties to her clit.

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