January 31, 2012

The Forge

The Forge is the first of my "Hump Day Request" stories, written in response to a prompt by one of my readers. This is the original prompt, received through my Tumblr Ask Box:
I wanted to request Seduction! I'm in the mood for something soft and sweet. I want a story where the guy seduces the shy sweet innocent gal. She's not secretly dirty or secretly kinky. She's a virgin, and innocent, but has a LOT of love in her heart. So he can seduce her and coax her into trying some fun stuff with him. That stuff can be as tame as doing it with her on top, or as wild as.. well.. wild stuff.. The main point to it should be seduction though.  I want 100% unfilterd romance.
One thing about romance: it always takes a hell of a lot longer than pure sex.  I'd written stories about this couple before but never hit quite the right note with them, so this time I took a different angle, putting them in a fictional fantasy/historical setting and gave them a new twist. I'm pleased with the results (and hopefully my requester is, too), and while the focus was sweet romance, it's still a little sexy, too.  But as I said, romance takes a bit longer than sex.  That said, The Forge will be a three-part story.
Here is Part One.

 Ayasha was not well-loved among the people in the mountain outpost of Harpy's Roost; she was an  outsider, and worse than that she was a heretic: a priestess of the Chyaen religion, robed in the dark cloak and hood of the Charossians wherever she went.  She was a disciple of the Death-God.

It wasn't precisely the aspect of her deity that turned the residents of the Roost away from her, though.  She wore black robes, where most Charossians wore white and gold; her hood always hid her face, where there was no such prescription for the loyal priests and priestesses of her order.  She never spoke, bound by an oath of silence that all acolytes took at initiation, but such an oath was renounced upon initiation into the Order proper and evidently, she had never been released of it herself.
Ayasha had turned away from the great Chyaen Temple in the faraway city where she had been raised and taught the miracles of a chosen worshipper.  She'd left her home to come out to the isolated northern country and settle in the harsh terrain of the great mountains, leagues and leagues away from the nearest church which bore her patron's crests.  She was no missionary, either, seeking to bring the will of Charos to the untouched northern range.  Ayasha was an apostate, cast out from her church, and shunned.
The black robes were a bad omen, a mark of shame.  The hood hid her face and her disgrace.  This was the garb of mourners, and Ayasha had been sentenced to a life of silent mourning for her own spiritual death.
She'd come to the Roost, alone, over a year ago, and since had lived alone, a hermit unto herself even within the borders of the town.  She was avoided, mostly ignored, left to her own devices.  As far as the residents of the Roost were concerned, the unlucky Charossian was content enough with that: she never spoke to anyone, and she didn't seek their friendship, and she didn't mind their pity.  The Roost and its single Untouchable existed almost within different realms all their own, interacting only as needed and happy to go on without ever meeting eyes.
Most of the Roost, at least, was content with this.  There was one man—Kayao, master of the outpost's great Forge—who did not truck with his neighbors' manners.  Kayao himself had been the source of some discomfort and avoidance among others before: he was terribly scarred, the left side of his face mutilated in an accident of his youth and now always covered by a thick leather mask.  Of course, his own deformities had come years ago, and he'd grown up with that mask covering one half of his face, of knowing that no friend, no woman who would be his lover, could ever look upon him without it.  His mask was like Ayasha's robes, his mark of shame, but he'd also been a boy in this region, raised and tempered here.  His people had become accustomed to his ugliness, and the mask hiding his true face was hardly noticed by anyone anymore.
Ayasha was an outsider.  He wasn't sure if her masks could ever be ignored.
He'd never understood why Ayasha was to be shunned in the first place.  He'd met her on her first day in the Roost, when she'd come to him to request a new bridle and shoes for her horse, and since that day he'd been the only one in the outpost who was not somehow afraid of her.  He'd seen beneath her hood that first day—he'd seen a sweet, cherubic face with wide, innocent eyes, one blue, the other green, and the earnest, genuine light in them that asked for nothing besides simple human tolerance.  She was beautiful.  Was it only the maimed man, forever meant to hide his ugliness, who could see that?
He did not know why she'd been cast out of her church, or why she'd been made to wear the black robes of a dishonored priestess or keep an eternal silence.  He didn't care.  She was young, she was alone, and she was only searching for a place to exist after everything she'd known had been stripped from her.
Kayao was her only friend.
And he realized, as time went on and as Ayasha became a part of the everyday reality in Harpy's Roost, a part of his everyday reality, that soon there was more to his feelings than that. 

Ayasha came to Kayao periodically, seeking his skills to help repair her simple tools or to request his aid in matters of upkeep on her simple home, a spartan hut on the edge of town where she was mostly unbothered by others.  She was always under those robes, she never so much as put back her hood, but Kayao snuck glances underneath its shadows nonetheless to her pretty eyes, and the shy smile she sometimes gave him when she noticed him peeking.  She was always very careful to pay him promptly and kindly rejected any offer to forgive payment or delay it until another time; Kayao knew nothing about where she might earn her money but that was not his business in any case.  One winter as he helped her to repair a portion of her roof damaged in a snowstorm—helped her, notably, as she refused to stand idly by to watch him handle the job alone—he wished she would let him do it without compensation.  He wanted to help her, after all.
He wanted to do more for her.
She occupied his thoughts more and more often, her gentle, silent presence a comfort to him.  Kayao was a hard man, had to be, as all residents of the Roost were in this harsh and unbroken mountain wilderness.  The women he had known were hard, too, carved from the very stones of the peaks, as it were, beautiful and regal and strong, but Ayasha was different.  She had grown up in the city.  She'd never had the callused hands of worker, and he saw the blisters rise and turn her palms ruddy now that she was given little choice.  He saw her take in the sight of work—like the roof in need of repair—and steel herself to do it though she had never been required to do anything like it before.  She was a priestess, not a farmer, not a fighter; but she had been dealt a new hand, and when she stood beside him in her dooryard watching him slaughter a set of chickens for her, she did not turn away or flinch.  She asked him—in her graceful, subtle sign language—to instruct her, so that next time she would know to do it for herself.
And somehow she'd managed it, without so much as staining the dark cotton of her mourner's robes.
He worried about her, living alone far from the others.  The Roost was built on perilous, craggy mountainside, and Ayasha in her seclusion had been relegated to a dangerous section of the borders.  In a bad enough storm she could easily be hurt or even maybe killed without anyone there to help her, and when the winds howled some nights he couldn't stop the thought of her isolation from gnawing at his gut.  Sometimes he even ventured out to check on her, and she was always there, silent and patient, whatever nervous fear she might have felt tamed behind those lovely mismatched eyes.  She'd let him in and start a pot of tea, and he remained with her throughout the storms to be sure no harm came to her.
He had fallen in love with her, of that there was no doubt.  His affection for her, his secret adoration, glowed and burned like the fires in his forge, with beautiful intensity every day.
Soon, it was impossible to deny.

On the night Ayasha came to him through the storm, Kayao had already been awake, standing in the storefront of his smithy and gazing out into the gales of sleet coming down.  It was perhaps the worst winter storm the Roost had seen in years, and his mind of course had gone to Ayasha's humble hut, standing alone near the cliff side.  He was thinking about the patch he had made on her roof that spring, and wondering if it would hold through this harsh northern wind.
It hadn't.
The knock came just as he had made up his mind to pack up and go to her, and when he opened the door and saw her standing there, holding the hood of her robe down over her face as the wind tried to snatch it away, he was speechless for several long seconds before he realized the stupidity of that and hurried her into the safety of the shop.
"What are you doing?" he demanded once he had shut out the howling storm again and turned to regard her disheveled state.  "You shouldn't have come out in this all alone, you could have been injured!"
She looked up at him, arrested as she tried to adjust the hood, and her mismatched eyes held a note of uncertain hurt.  He chastised himself immediately; he'd never spoken that way to her and of course it must have sounded exactly like the others in the Roost who mightn't have cared less if she stayed in her lonely hut as it blew over the cliffs.
"I'm sorry," he said, softer this time.  "I was worried, I was just about to come out to you.  What's the matter?"
She shook her head at him and her gaze fell to the floor.  He noticed that her robes—which she had never allowed to be stained, even when she learned to slaughter chickens in the dooryard—were dirty with wet slush and mud.  It was the first time he'd ever seen her in disarray.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
The hood bobbed as she nodded, and her graceful hands slipped out of the robes voluminous sleeves, working through signs even as they shivered.
Roof, she told him.  Partway collapsed.  Fallen tree.
"Oh," he said, and his heart thumped painfully.  "Were you hurt?"
No, she signed, though he could see the way her shoulders trembled a little in fear.
"Aya," he said gently.  "Don't worry.  We'll look at it in the morning.  You'll be safe here for the night."
She looked up at him again.  He saw the glimmer of tears in her eyes, tears of relief, and then she threw her arms around him in gratitude.
He was shocked at the sudden display of affection.  After some hesitant moments, he carefully lifted his own arms back and returned the hug.
"Tea," he said, his mind a stammer of uncertainty.  "You're all wet, you'll need some tea.  And…"
He frowned, then pushed her gently away from him to look down into her face.
"Aya, do you have anything other than these robes?  They're soaked.  You'll get sick."
She wore an expression of chagrin, and shook her head.
"Oh.  Well… I'm sure I can find something for you—"
She shook her head again, a little more frantically this time. 
"But you have to take them off," he insisted.  "Come on, Aya, you must take them off some time."
Her eyes fell to the floor again, and a third time she shook her head.
"That's nonsense," he told her.  "Aya, if you don't get out of those robes you're going to take a chill and get sick.  I respect your faith but I'm not going to let you do harm to yourself by it."
He put a hand on her shoulder and guided her towards the back door of the shop, which would lead to his personal rooms and to the stairs which led below, to the forge.  Kayao had moved into the small secondary chambers off of the forge room for the winter; in a place like Harpy's Roost, heat was precious, and the fires of the smithy made dwelling in the quarters below far more comfortable in the winters.  So he had not made use of his own kitchen or upstairs domicile in some weeks now, and when he brought the lamps to life around his humble dining table, it was obvious.  Everything had been taken downstairs, down the the teapot, which now rested on one of his anvils.
"Well, damn," he sighed.  Then, "Pardon that, Aya, wasn't thinking.  I'll have to go downstairs for the kettle, if you don't mind waiting up here.  My trunks are down there, too, so I'll bring you up something to wear while we put those robes out in front of my forge-fires to dry."
She regarded him with those clear, lovely eyes and nodded, taking a seat at the table.  Meltwater from her robes dripped to the stone floor beneath her.  In a moment of cautious forwardness, Kayao reached out for the folds of her hood, and—very slowly, giving her time to stop him if she wanted to do so—he pulled the wet, black fabric back, revealing her fully for the first time since they'd met.
He'd known that Aya had fine, golden hair underneath the hood.  Occasionally a length or strand of it had escaped its confines to tumble playfully into sight.  What he hadn't known was how long it was, falling well below her shoulders, presently in dripping dark tangles like a bedraggled thing.  She  trembled a bit as the hood came down and turned her face away from him, as though she was ashamed.
"I'm sorry," he said softly.  "I don't mean to dishonor you, Aya… I'll put it back, if you want.  I just don't want you catching cold."
She shook her head again and put her hands on his, letting him release the hood and keeping it where it was.  She ran one hand through her disheveled lengths of hair and it occurred to him, suddenly, that she must not have cut her hair since donning the hood in the first place.
"Oh, hell," he muttered, unsure of what to say to her.   Then, "Sorry, again.  Me and my mouth.  Are you sure you're okay?"
She nodded.
"I'll be right back."
He turned to leave here there as he descended into the forge, when:
Go to Part 2>>

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