Cruel Enchantment: Author’s Comments
Eleven short stories, written purposefully as a set.
Loud Sing Cuckoo
Sevran reached the end of the planted row and straightened gratefully, arching her back. Her hair itched with heat; she had bound it back but most of it had escaped in thick wriggly coils that now clung to her neck. She raised the jug over her head and let the water spill down through her hair and over her face. It trickled on her breasts and darkened the linen. Sevran laughed.
A horse whickered softly.
She turned with a gasp, letting the jug fall from her hands. There was a huge grey horse standing motionless at the edge of the clearing – on its back, equally motionless, a man.
Plot: Sevran is a herbalist living in the wooded borderlands between the realm of her own people and that of the Northerners, who are rumoured to be only half human. There is a new and fragile Peace in place between the two peoples, but Sevran’s people, victims of years of vicious raids, hold no love or trust for their Northern neighbours. One spring day Sevran discovers a Northern man in her herb-garden. He’s tired and hungry and possibly on the run, and he asks for hospitality. Sevran shares the hut only with her blind old mistress and dares not refuse, though she is terrified of her guest. In fact it turns out that violence is not on his mind … and she is less repulsed by him than she thought.
Sexual themes: Straight.
Summer is a-coming in,
This was the first piece of erotica I ever wrote. It’s consequently very simple, a tale of an encounter between two strangers who barely speak to one another, where desire and curiosity manage to overcome ingrained distrust and hatred.
The setting is within the fantasy world I created for the novel I wrote at eighteen – which never sold, thank God. Don’t we all write a terrible novel at eighteen? The Northerners look Asiatic but have dead white hair: a very obvious nod to the Chinese TV dramas I saw so much of as a child growing up in Hong Kong. In Chinese film unnatural white hair often seems to be used as a sign of the uncanny.
In this early piece there are several of the themes and images I return to repeatedly: the apparently menacing stranger, forbidden desire across ethnic/political barriers, characters who are outcast or marginal in their own society, the melting of fear into arousal. And, of course, men with long hair…
It’s a positive story about spring regenerating the world. Sex is definitely preferable to violence!
The Dragon’s Bride
‘Not now,’ said the dragon, bringing his head down close to her. His hot breath whistled around her feet. Suddenly his tongue – forked like a snake’s and pale blue – slid from between the mesh of his teeth and brushed across her breasts, flickering in and out of his mouth, tracing a path across her shivering skin from throat to belly. Sheldi shut her eyes and submitted, yielding to the dry, delicate touch. When it slid between her parted thighs she made no sound, though her eyes flew open. She felt the tip of the tongue questing in the moist folds of her flesh and realised with silent shock how adroit a forked tongue could be at parting and spreading that flesh.
‘Open your legs,’ breathed Oromon. His tongue was drawing slick trails of moisture across her thighs and she could smell herself. She flushed with shame.
Plot: Sheldi, a merchant’s daughter, has been set up. When a dragon arrived in the kingdom the traditional lottery was arranged to determine maidens to be offered in sacrifice. But when the king’s daughter was chosen, the king appealed for a volunteer substitute and her father offered Sheldi. She’s tied to a stake and the dragon Oromon arrives to carry her away to his lair. There he explains that what he’s looking for is a woman who’s neither squeamish nor cowardly, because as a young unmated dragon he needs company. And he offers Sheldi the choice between concubinage or being eaten. Sheldi is a girl with guts and grasps her new career in both hands… just to start with.
Sexual themes: Masturbating a dragon…
It’s that fear => arousal thing again.
This is a real Big Dick fantasy with literally gallons of semen. Re-reading the story now, several years after writing it, I find it funny and sweet. Some readers recoil because it just seems like bestiality to them; others are wildly enthusiastic. I guess it all boils down to your attitude to dragons.
I used to love the bits in fantasy novels like The Hobbit and A Wizard of Earthsea where the hero would go and talk to the dragon. I enjoy the idea of there being something bigger, better and more intelligent than us, that also sits higher up the food chain – Well, I guess I have a rather low opinion of humankind in general! Oromon is completely unsentimental about his dining experiences with previous maidens, and Sheldi’s pragmatic sensuality matches his perfectly. When they’ve demonstrated a satisfactory physical understanding he does start to show some concern for her, and maybe a hint of tenderness.
I can’t see Bilbo dealing with Smaug that way, mind you.
The Dragon’s Bride was reprinted in Best of Black Lace 2 (2002)
Claudette slipped away to one side and Michel released Annette, letting her sink to her knees. He ran his fingers through her hair and held her there with a hand to either side of her head, pinning her gently in place. Annette felt Michel’s erection rigid against the back of her skull, trapped beneath his clothes, and she pressed back against it, rolling her head from side to side. Michel made a small noise somewhere between a sigh and a groan and stroked the damp hair back from her forehead. She gawped mentally at the spectacle she must make: a married woman of the respectable merchant class, legs spread like a slut, her pussy wet with her own juices and the saliva of a peasant strumpet, slumped panting in full view of two score people who were entertaining themselves with the sight of her gaping gash.
Plot: Annette is a young wife suffering from a mysterious and debilitating sickness: across the course of each month she moves from black depression to uncontrollable rage. At the advice of Michel, an unorthodox doctor, she is sent off by her husband on pilgrimage to the shrine of St Veronique the Virgin – who has a reputation for being able to offer a cure for this particular malady. On the journey she is protected by Bernard, secretary to the Archbishop, from an unpleasant encounter with a lecherous youth. The shrine is on the estate of the Chatelaine Marguerite, whom Annette encounters in her garden with her lusty, arrogant servant, Gaspard. At the shrine she also meets Father Emil, the Chatelaine’s priest, and Claudette a free-spirited servant girl. She prays and keeps vigil. Claudette tells her that the shrine is associated with a rumoured pack of wolves that comes down out of the hills to pray there. Emil tells her the story of St Veronique, who avoided an unwanted marriage by being made miraculously ‘hairy’ after fervent prayer. On the third night Claudette and Michel appear to conduct Annette to the place where she is to be ‘cured’, and there she meets a group that includes everyone who has been watching over her during her pilgrimage. Their leaders are Bernard and the Chatelaine.
The root of Annette’s problem is
that she is a latent
werewolf, and unless she releases the beast within she will eventually
die of the strain. To be initiated into wolf form she has to be
repeatedly exposed to the body fluids of the other pack members and
have her mental barriers and defences torn down by sexual excess.
Sexual themes: Orgy.
This is the longest story in the book. It’s the first one with a pseudo-historical setting, since it’s clearly set in the south of France (the city isn’t named but I was thinking of Narbonne) during the very late Middle Ages or early Renaissance. The ‘rebirth’ of the title though refers to Annette’s initiation into a new life.
Why the Mediterranean area for werewolves? I couldn’t have answered that one until today when I caught a showing of Ladyhawke on TV. Well there you go! Funny the things that lurk around in your subconscious from adolescence, isn’t it? But I did consciously have in mind that most historic werewolf panics do seem to have taken place in France.
I’ve always been more interested in werewolves than, say, vampires as subjects for erotic fiction. (In fact I’ve never written a vampire story. Except just possibly The Temptation of St Gregory, see below.) It seems to me that vampires are all about Power, and werewolves are about Losing Control. The rise of the ‘beast within’ works well for me as a metaphor for the primal urges of the body; for that moment when you know that you’re going to give way to your lust despite caution and conviction and reason and everything in you that says you shouldn’t; because your sexual instinct is just so strong that you cannot disobey it.
The other reason for preferring werewolves is that vampires speak to me about isolation, about being cut off from humanity and life, about being different from everyone else – No wonder teenagers are drawn to the vampire’s solipsistic angst. But personally it doesn’t appeal that much. Werewolves have exactly the opposite problem: they are no longer cut off from the natural world by their human self-awareness; instead their psyche is swamped by the animal mind and they are forcibly dragged back into that numinous unity with nature that we so often crave in our spirituality. This is not, of course, necessarily a good thing. Not if it means waking up next to the dismembered corpse of your neighbour, say.
The different werewolves in my fictional pack certainly have differing attitudes to their state. Bernard, the ‘alpha male’, sees it as an ancient and noble tradition for whose current adherents he is responsible. Michel, Bernard’s protege, is interested in rescuing new members from the ‘prison’ of their human lives. Claudette sees it as freedom from the medieval social order which would normally keep her well in her place. Father Emil tries to read the spiritual lessons. Gaspard and Marguerite are more selfish; they see their lycanthropic powers as tools for indulgence and self-gratification, and both like the idea of being on top of the pack hierarchy.
I’ve toyed with the idea of a follow-up to this story, but have yet to find a plot that won’t be a bit too grim. If and when Bernard dies, Gaspard will (with the support of the Chatelaine Marguerite) almost certainly take over as alpha male and Michel – who’d have made a much better pack leader – will get badly beaten and expelled.
Hmm. So what happens after that…?
The Temptation of St Gregory
She stretched herself upon the bed, reclining on her right side, her thighs rubbing one on top of the other. Gregory tried to look away.
‘I am what you
want,’ she corrected him. ‘A thousand nights
alone, Gregory, and I can smell your frustration on the wind from here
to Alexandria. Your lying awake in the dark, unable to sleep, unable to
pray, terrified to touch the serpent flesh in your own bed. The
hardness of your pallet beneath you, the serpent trapped between flesh
and stone. The memories returning to haunt you: slave girls kneeling at
your feet, the Nubian maid kept in your chamber, spying upon your
mistress as she bathed – Dreams that keep returning. Your
while you sleep. Do you think these things are secret?’
Sexual Themes: Threesome (two women). Submission.
Told from the man’s point of view, nearly to the end. This is one of the few occasions where I set up a character I don’t like and then proceed to be really mean to him.
‘Saint’ Gregory (and since you can only be canonised after death that gives you a pretty good idea of how mean I get) is based on the desert hermits of the early Christian Church, particularly St Anthony (3rd Century) and St Jerome (4th Century) who were tempted by horrific and erotic visions while fasting. The ‘demonic’ hallucinations they suffered have made fine subjects for painters over the centuries.
What’s my beef with Gregory? Well, he’s egotistical and wilfully stupid. After a lifetime of self-centred indulgence he comes to the conclusion that it’s a spiritually empty and shameful existence - Fair enough. But he projects his self-disgust outward. Shagging slave-girls is an offence against God’s holy ordinances and high standards, he says to himself, so who is to blame? Obviously the slave-girls for being so tempting!
The Church Fathers from Roman and Medieval times took misogyny and the loathing of sex to an extreme:
woman is not the image of God, whereas man alone is the image of
God.” (St Augustine)
Anyone with that sort of attitude deserves everything that happens to him, in my opinion. Moreover, because his imagination is stunted by his religious indoctrination, Gregory equates the overtly womanly (dark, big-breasted, sensual) with Evil and pale+slender+quiet (i.e. his idea of ‘virginal’) with Good. He deludes himself that his attraction to the ‘angel’ is of a purer and more holy kind than that of his attraction to the ‘demon’.
My intention as author was that neither of the winged beings in this story was what Gregory believed them to be. The ‘demon’ was not of Hell and the ‘angel’ was not of Heaven. Both were of the same kind: a semi-corporeal vampiric entity that feeds on emotional energy and takes its physical shape from the psychic furniture of its victim. Attracted to Gregory’s highly-charged sexual ‘battery’ like sharks to blood, the major difference between them was that one had more conscience about killing its prey than the other.
Hey, at least he dies happy.
The Temptation of St Gregory was reprinted in Best of Black Lace 2 (2002)
The Fairest of Them All
I could not resist the temptation to reach out for a fur pelisse that lay across the foot of the bed. It was a wrap that I wore about my shoulders when I ventured out of doors, sewn from the white fur of winter hares. I folded it in my hand and rubbed it against Ursilla’s plump mound, trailing it up to her stinging, glorious cheeks and back again. She twitched and gasped. I almost forgot that the spanking was to continue, so absorbed did I become in the silken path of the fur gliding across her skin – almost, but not quite. I alternated the rich caresses of my fur-clad left hand with judicious, stinging slaps from the slipper in my right; enough to keep her on edge, tremulous and anticipatory of each blow. The white fur became damp as it soaked up the juices from her sex, and then it began to stick together in little moist locks; much more and it would be unwearable.
Plot: The unnamed narrator is the new second wife of a Scottish Laird. While her husband is away at the royal court she must rule his demesne in his name, and with a firm hand. Most difficult of all the vassals she must bend to her will is her step-daughter Ursilla, who has been left to run wild since her own mother was executed for adultery. The girl has been denied her father’s love and regard and has grown up promiscuous and uncontrollable, but the step-mother vows to restore her self-esteem through care and firm discipline. In the process she forges a bond with Ursilla that takes her quite by surprise.
Sexual Themes: Lesbian. Domination/submission. Spanking.
Mirror Mirror on the wall
Skin as white as snow,
Set in a pseudo-historical Scottish Highlands of the late medieval period (Yes, I know they didn’t wear kilts then but I couldn’t resist!), this is a BDSM love-story.
Step-mothers in fairy stories get a bad press. They’re always unfair and demanding and malicious, and sometimes witches into the bargain. Fathers are presented as benign but absent or ineffective, unable to prevent the abuses going on under their nose. Well, I thought I’d write a story directly based on Snow White but from the step-mother’s point of view. And she is a demanding and a harsh taskmaster, and she does punish her step-daughter cruelly. Moreover she is – as Ursilla openly accuses her on several occasions - a witch: she keeps a magic mirror in her chamber which does not reflect the room it ought to, and uses it to scry on people and keep one step ahead of those she needs to command.
That doesn’t necessarily make her
wicked. And even witches can love.
Montague’s Last Ride
‘My poor Lord Montague,’ she murmured: ‘lying here all alone in your cold bed.’
Cecilia slid her hands forward on the cool stone and stretched her torso across the slab, feeling the chill soak into her arms and breasts and belly like water. For a moment she felt dizzy. The rock was icy against her cheek and brow. The hot ache between her legs was unabated however and reluctantly, after reclining a few moments, she pushed herself back to her feet. There she discovered that her crotch was directly on a level with the corner of the grave-slab and she could rub her swollen, needy sex against its cold thrust. Dreamily, she lifted her skirt before her and spread it upon the tomb-top so that her damp silk underwear was all that separated her from the marble. She began to press herself forward, rubbing herself off on white rock while the hot waves of her passion began swiftly to rise. She imagined Lord Montague stirring in his tomb below, sensing her, smelling her; pictured him lifting his withered arms toward her, his black and corrupt penis swelling, stiffening – and with that thought she came.
Plot: During the 17th Century Lord Montague had a reputation for seductive powers over women that culminated in him being hanged as a witch and buried in an unconsecrated tomb in the grounds of his stately home. By Victorian times Massingham Hall has newly passed into the hands of a descendant, Rupert, and his wife Cecilia. These two enjoy a relationship of dominance and submission that pushes the bounds of Victorian propriety to the very limit. But Rupert is not present often enough to keep Cecilia’s dangerous urges satisfied, and when he leaves her unpacking in their new home her restlessness drives her to seek out the tomb of her priapic ancestor. Pleasuring herself upon the tomb marked with the legend Resurgam (“I shall rise again”), she fantasies about Montague rising from his grave to ravish her. That night he does so. Cecilia submits eagerly to his unclean embrace and he carries her back to his tomb to consummate their mutual lust, just as Rupert arrives.
Sexual Themes: Submission. Spanking. Sex with the undead.
This one freaks out some readers.
I’m a big fan of the classic ghost stories of M(ontague) R(hodes) James (1862-1936), which I first read hidden among the stacks on the top floor of my local library, scaring myself silly. This story was written in homage to him – though there’s no two ways about it, James would have hated Montague’s Last Ride. There’s no sex at all in James’ tales, and barely any women except the odd spinster sister or comic working-class housekeeper. His fictional world is inhabited entirely by bachelor antiquarians of independent means and their servants. Nevertheless his revenants and demons are notable for being very tactile, often felt as well as seen, repulsive yet charismatic in their awfulness. So, I thought; why not…?
Most undead in romantic/erotic fiction, from Lestat to Patrick Swayze’s Ghost, are dead in a nice, polite, understated way (One exception is Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, which doesn’t recoil from making the extremely attractive Bride also overtly repulsive – I mean, honestly; skin that’s pooled around her ankle like a fallen stocking? Blimey… There’s probably a whole new generation of pubescent Gothlets warped forever by that film.). Not Lord Montague: he’s a walking corpse. He smells bad. He has skin like greasy leather, and things move about under that skin. Of course if he was a real Jamesian revenant he’d be hairy too but, ugh, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere…
What can I say? An enormous amount of erotica relies for its effect on the themes transgressive and dirty. I wanted to see how far I could push that. But not by making Montague a stomach-churning zombie; he’s really not all that bad. Any horror in the story lies in Cecilia’s willingly blurring the categories Living and Dead, and by a means so intimate – there’s certainly no violence and no coercion. The horror is that Cecilia wants it. Montague, the reader is told, was rumoured to have sold his soul to the Devil for the power to enflame anyone who looked into his eyes with desire for him. But when he appears to Cecilia he has no eyes: they were put out before his execution. I’m not letting her pass the buck here: it isn’t some sort of supernatural enchantment she’s under. She yields to Montague because of her own need for extreme submission, and the fact that he is so repellent is what gives the experience its charge for her.
I’ve been asked if she’s
dead by the end of
the story. The answer is No, though I can’t vouch for the
of her sanity.
The twiggy claws of the scrubbing brush raked Jhearl’s spine, stabbing her with pleasure, stripping the ache from her bruised flesh. When she’d finished, Ambele dropped the brush and put both hands lightly on Jhearl’s shoulders. ‘What do these mean?’ she asked, leaning close, her warm breath tickling the bather’s ear as she reached down over Jhearl’s shoulder and flipped the silver ring that peirced her right nipple. Jhearl fought a shudder. All the skin across her breasts tightened and her nipples lifted, out-thrust and swollen. Desire was so strong in her that it constricted her throat.
‘They don’t mean anything,’ she managed to say. ‘I wear them because they feel good.’
‘Oh?’ Ambele said. There was an edge of amusement in her voice. She caught the silver ring between thumb and finger and tugged gently, drawing the nipple out with threads of fire. Jhearl gave a tiny whimper.
Plot: Jhearl, a
courtesan, is travelling
through the desert to an isolated inn in order to rendezvous with a
high-ranking lover. On the way her caravan is attacked by ghouls, and
Jhearl is saved by Ambele, a female mercenary whose husband also dies
in the skirmish. The two women, alone now, make it to the inn, but
there is no sign of the man she means to meet and after bathing and
eating Jhearl is attacked by an assassin. Ambele kills him. The women
retire to comfort one another.
This was my attempt at a straightforward lesbian story. It reads to me now rather like a chapter taken from a longer novel; the puzzle about who has attempted to have Jhearl killed, and why, is never answered.
Oddly, I have very little memory of writing this – although from the names it’s obvious that I was reading Lovecraft’s “Dreamlands” stories at the time.
Fiction is like that sometimes: a story will
arrive as if from
nowhere, get written down, and a year or two later you read it again
and think, ‘Was that me?’ My feeling is that
stories are generated at a
mental level way below normal consciousness. Characters can develop
traits and histories while you’re writing that take you
surprise, or go off in completely unexpected directions. I say, just
roll with it.
H P Lovecraft (1890-1937) was a horror writer who actively encouraged other writers to make use of his settings, monsters, gods and themes in their own work, and literally hundreds of authors have accreted their stories to the Lovecraft Mythos. His “Dreamlands” stories in turn drew very heavily from Lord Dunsany’s fantasies. If you know what you’re looking for you can spot hidden Lovecraft references in all sorts of odd places in my work. Why? Because I find it childishly amusing.
(An aside to any who are fans of HPL: I’ve been asked by friends who know how fond I am of his work why I don’t write a full-on Mythos horror/erotica story. Other authors have certainly tried. My feeling is that – unless you have a fetish for tentacles – they mix like oil and water. The basis of Lovecraftian horror is that human experience has no significance whatsoever in the context of a universe that is literally insane: there can be no greater value in joy and pleasure, for example, than in suffering and despair. Erotic fiction is entirely dependent on the perceived value of pleasure. So although I enjoy both genres, they clearly light up completely different circuits in my brain.)
He was like a stallion upon a mare, a ship under full sail upon the sea, a spear piercing my entrails. His phallus felt as thick as a branch and as hard as bronze; it ploughed into me like the ram of a ship cutting the waves. I melted, I flowed, I engulfed him. He rode me upon the sacred altar of the Owl Queen. I cried out and twisted under him and he shouted above me, lips drawn back from bared teeth. I tore at his back and kissed his throat and lifted my hips so that he could thrust deeper and deeper yet. Tears ran from my eyes and I sobbed, pleading shamelessly with him for more, for faster, for deeper – for the completion of my ruination – until he covered my mouth with his and stopped my breath and I felt myself turn to light. He became incandescent too, both of us blazing in divine flame that lit the temple from end to end.
Even a mortal would have seen our glory and been blinded by it, had any been present.
Plot: The Gorgon
Medusa tells her story. Once
a virgin goddess in the retinue of Athene, she happened to draw the
attention of the sea-god Poseidon and he approached her in the great
goddess’ temple. Medusa succumbs to him through a mixture of
pessimism, and is duly punished by Athene by being transformed into a
monster whose face turns living creatures to stone. She retreats to the
westernmost ends of the earth and lives there as a local goddess. She
takes temporary lovers from amongst mortals (but has to hide her face
behind a wax mask) which often ends with them being petrified forever,
and she observes her worshippers’ ways. The story ends with
glimpse of the hero Perseus, who has come to kill her.
A story with a melancholy tone.
“Medusa was once renowned for her loveliness, and roused jealous hopes in the hearts of many suitors. Of all the beauties she possessed, none was more striking than her lovely hair. But, so they say, the Lord of the Sea robbed her of her virginity in the temple of Minerva. Jove’s daughter turned her back: and to punish the Gorgon for her deed, she changed her hair to revolting snakes.” (Ovid: Metamorphoses)
Of course Ovid uses the Roman names for Athene and Zeus. I use the titles Owl Queen and Thunderer; the Earth Shaker is Poseidon, the Foamborn is Aphrodite and the Warlord is Ares. I never use Medusa’s name in the text: I have a fatal fondness for stories where you have to work out who is who. Irritating and elitist, I know.
I have very mixed feelings about Greek mythology. On the plus side they are infused throughout Western art and culture and their strong plots and vibrant personalities and technicolour gods can be used a myriad ways in fiction and will still resonate with readers after all these centuries.
On the minus side … Myth after myth after myth is about rape. That’s pretty much all the male gods seem to do. All of them. They do it on an industrial scale; they do it on a conveyor belt system. It’s completely gratuitous – if you’re a god in all your beauty and glory exactly why do you need to rape a mortal when she should naturally just be smitten? Why does a society need an attempted rape to explain the existence of a particular shrub? It’s misogynistic. It’s pathological. It’s abnormal. I mean, you just do not get it in other world-mythologies. There’s rape in them too (It’s a feature of human behaviour whatever the society) but nothing like on that scale. I mean, take the Vikings – a pretty macho lot, wouldn’t you have thought? The Viking gods hardly ever resort to rape. Nor do the Celts - not with the sheer single-minded determination of the Greek ones. It’s like some sort of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for them. And these are the myths that we peddle as suitable for children, bowdlerised of course as if calling them ‘the loves of Apollo’ or ‘ the loves of Zeus’ made it anything to do with love at all … Bleucch.
Okay, rant over. But the gods (both male and female) in Sacrifices are indeed a bunch of bastards. There’s nothing terribly pleasant about Medusa herself, of course; she uses and slays mortals without conscience. I still feel sorry for her, though.
He slid down on one knee, hands on her hips – and found the bruises, green and purple, across her thighs. Elgith stared down at the top of his head, hating the tokens of her victimisation and hating him for being a witness to them, just for a moment. Then he leaned in to her, his lips soft on the vulnerable crease between thigh and pubic mound, his tongue exploring. She raised her eyes defiantly across the room and saw Soron Shal propped up on his side, his face set in calm concentration, his hose open, his right hand busy at his crotch. He was pulling upon the long curve of his penis, squeezing the smooth shaft, dropping his palm to cup and caress his balls; without hurry, without apparent passion. Elgith had never seen such meditative perfection. She thought of her husband standing outside the door, sick with rage, while one solder of the hated Empire buried his face in her muff and the other watched and masturbated. A soft warmth burst within her, like a flower opening.
Plot: The Empire of the Shining Mask has conquered and is here to stay. Its soldiers are everywhere in the city, barracked among the civilian population. Two officers have been forced upon the house of Marlam Silversmith. For his wife Elgith, physically abused by her cold-hearted husband and treated like dirt by his family, this new situation is a further cause for fear. But it’s also an opportunity. Marlam hates the usurpers, but he is unable to force them to his will as he does with everyone else in the house. Elgith takes her chance and throws herself on the newcomers’ mercy. She’ll pleasure both of them at once, if that’s what it takes. Better the devil you don’t know…
Sexual Themes: Threesome (two men) including gay sex.
This might be my personal favourite in the collection. Its optimism balances the sadness of Sacrifices. Thematically it’s similar to Loud Sing Cuckoo and The Dragon’s Bride of course: that normal society is soul-crushing and that salvation and sexual satisfaction lie outside its bounds, with that very thing society would have you fear the most.
Of course, it doesn’t work that way every time – see The Temptation of St Gregory and Montague’s Last Ride.
There are a lot of big bad Empires in my
stories, aren’t there?
Jade sloughed the silken robe and stood naked in front of him. ‘You are the first man to see me, Petrus. The first man I have ever touched. The first ever allowed to touch me.’
Petrus laughed in disbelief. She stooped to bite his lips softly. He writhed under her, hot and afraid.
‘I’m telling the truth.’ She posed for him, running her hands up her body and lifting her breasts. ‘I am an imperial princess. I have never seen a man. I am not allowed near them. Protected. Cosseted. Indulged. Nothing to relieve my curiosity. I have made do for years with dreams and frigging. Do you know how I feel, Petrus? I am burning with curiosity. I want to know what it is like. I want to know what a man can do. If I am to be Empress then I have to know everything. You are my instrument, Petrus.’
‘I will fuck you till you scream, you bitch,’ he promised.
‘No.’ Jade froze, her hands in her midnight hair, her flushed breasts tilted high, her sapphire eyes aglow. ‘You will not fuck me, you filthy gutter-crawling thief. You common little piece of shit. You will not fuck me. You will beg me to fuck you.’
Plot: Petrus sneaks into the Royal Palace one night with the intention of stealing a famous jewelled necklace. He makes the mistake of climbing in through the bedroom window of Princess Flower of Jade, and her two animated bronze statues capture him. To his horror he finds that Jade has every intention of keeping him in chains for some time, and that he is completely at her mercy. She has ambitions to become the first ruling Empress, and will use the blackest magic to achieve this. She toys with Petrus, keeping him hungry and thirsty and humiliated and aroused beyond endurance, until his will breaks and he submits to her. At the moment of climax she cuts a magical sigil into his chest, binding him to her service. He is to be the first of many…
Sexual Themes: Female Dominant. Bondage. Coercion. Urine.
This story was written as a replacement for Party Piece (q.v.) which was published elsewhere. It necessarily had to feature a woman dominant over a man in order to balance the collection, but in this teenager I think I created a monster. The publisher’s cover copy describes Jade as a ‘spoilt princess’. Spoilt? - she’s a psychopath. And a black magician to boot.
‘And I will rule forever. I can do that, you know, with the right magic. And everyone will be happy, because everyone will love me.’
I tip the nod to Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) who
pessimistic pseudo-mythological fantasies that read like passages from
a very dark atheist Bible: “It is well that the
Sorrow of Search cometh only to the wise, for the wise are very
few.” (Time and the Gods, 1906) I suspect he
influenced Tanith Lee’s writing a lot too. Highly recommended.
White as Any Milk: Black As Any Silk
I hardly had time to stretch out across my bed when the door to my chamber opened and Galiena walked in. She was naked but for the ash-drift of her unbound hair and the blue filigree of tattooing on skin as white as moonlight itself. I was struck dumb and frozen motionless by shock. I could not react even when she reached the side of my bed and looked down on me.
‘Chedzoy’s dog,’ she sneered. Her voice was soft nonetheless. She reached for the blanket and drew it from the bed, dropping it at her feet. I think I stirred my hands in protest. And my prick stirred too, stiffening to life under her gaze with a wrench so sharp it was almost painful. Her glance was not modest; it was cool and appraising, conducting as harsh an examination of my supine form as it had of my character – but she did not seem displeased this time. She laid one hand on my burgeoning member and it leaped under her touch like a hound greeting its mistress. If it had been a dog it would have fawned at her feet – If I had been a dog, so would I.
Plot: Julian of Oxford is a Moon-Mage who has just entered the employ of the Baron of Chedzoy. The Baron wishes him to deal with Galiena, another Moon-Mage who owns a small amount of land bordering his. Chedzoy accuses her of being a Darkness-Mage too: of practising forbidden magics. The Baron’s motives are malicious but he’s unfortunately right. Things are complicated further for Julian by the fact that he is completely smitten by Galiena the moment he lays eyes on her. He spys on her by magic: she retaliates by filling his room full of briar-roses and walking in his dreams. Julian is caught between a liege-lord he dislikes and a woman he both loves and fears: if it came down to a straight battle he is fairly sure she would win. He proposes a formal duel to her, with the aim that win or lose she will not come to great harm. The duel is one of repeated shape-shifting. Julian’s tactics are somewhat underhand; as they change forms instead of attempting to overpower her he tries to make her aroused: if he can bring her to orgasm she will earth all her power for the night. Too late he realises that desire is a weapon that cuts two ways.
Sexual Themes: Straight.
Told from a male point of view. Set in rural Somerset, England, in an alternative version of the 13th Century where magic works. This one’s an unabashed love-story - I thought there should be one to finish up with.
It’s based on the Scottish folk ballad Two Magicians, which is about a sexual duel.
She looked out
of the window
She became a rose, a rose all in
She became a trout, a trout all in
She became a duck, a duck all on
She became a star, a star all in
She became a nun, a nun all dressed
She became a corpse, a corpse all
in the ground
(This version of the lyrics recorded by Steeleye Span. The earliest version, Child 44, is considerably nastier.)
The duel in the song ends with a rather pyrrhic draw: she proves her point by quite literally dying before letting him have her, and he has his wicked way but only by becoming the earth mingling with a cadaver. Yum. Folk songs are usually about sex or death, often both.
The alternative-England background and the magic system used in the story are those I helped write for a LARP group. It works as follows:
Moon-magic is enhanced by the metal silver, but Darkness-magic is damaged by it, so a magus like Galiena who is capable of both has to chose whether to wear silver jewellery or not. Her tattoos are also magical enhancements, but not specific to either alignment.
Galiena is an Immaculate; by allowing herself to come to climax at the end of the duel, even after winning, she’s making a tremendous sacrifice of her magical potential. It’s going to permanently weaken her. Still, the two of them together will be strong and smart enough to deal with Chedzoy.
There you go. At heart, I'm a romantic.