Notes before we begin: I am going to post here a bit of a retelling of a dream sequence in one of my novels. In it, Linula has dreams of being visited as she sleeps by the monsters that have chased her psychologically since she was a young and abused child. The dream is meant to be symbolic. The teddybear in essence tells her that she no longer needs to be afraid of the people that have abused her, and he will keep the memories at bay whilst she sleeps. The scene in all of its forms was inspired by the picture you see to the left of this paragraph. I do not know the exact source, but it has been floating around the internet a lot with a caption stating “teddy bears: protecting children from monsters under the bed since 1902”. That is where the idea for the scene in question began to gestate.
Further note: Actually, stuff it. I am going to post the whole (as yet untitled) story. The things I do for all you shit-chucking monkeys. *pokes out tongue*
Upon her return to Arterclius and one of its student accommodation facilities, Linula sought the apartment to which she had been assigned. Upon entering it, she put her bags down, took off her clothes, and climbed into the shower. Lightly rubbing soap over her body, she contemplated the events of the past six weeks, and what they meant to her.
The last thing she did before leaving the village of the Ursidae was respond to a request from Kronisk, the Mage-General. A number of Humans not allegiant to the Allied Realms had stormed the Northeast border of the village. Séindarion, Sirian, and the soldiers they were in the company of, had held these marauders at bay for a brief moment. It was lucky for both sides that a small group of Ursidae emerged from the forest, hoping to gain admission to the village that Kronisk was building for their kind. Ursidae were frightening creatures, especially in the midst of battle. It did not take long for the marauders to surrender and plead that they only sought resources to ease the hunger those at home felt.
One of the Ursidae, a sow approximately six feet tall when rearing, had been pregnant. Scared out of her mind, she had roared pleas with all around her to let her live long enough for her baby to be born. Kronisk’s response had simply been that such pleas were unnecessary. So long as he lived, no bear, especially not one clearly so close to birth, was going to come to harm.
As Linula rubbed soap over her abdomen, she reflected that no matter what she did, she would never have a child depending on her in any real sense. She understood almost nothing of medicine, but she did know that the pieces inside her that were necessary for her to bear a child did not function as they should.
What struck Linula as strange about this was that every other part of her person was exceptionally well-developed. Although Humans occasionally joked that Halflings could be mistaken for their children, mistaking Linula for a child would require a lot of selective blindness. The size of her thighs and breasts made it impossible.
Finishing her shower, Linula climbed out, gently dried herself, and put on a robe. Wandering into the bedroom and climbing into her bed, Linula laid back and thought to herself as she tried to sleep.
I am broken inside, Linula thought to herself. Even if I could have a baby, I could not keep him to adulthood without destroying his mind.
And as Linula fell asleep, her last unconscious thought related to Kronisk.
Linula could see herself lying flat on her back, fast asleep. Watching her own breasts rise and fall in time with her breathing, she wondered exactly why this series of images was playing in her consciousness. And then the mist emerged, rising from the foot of the bed and slowly forming into a monstrous creature that Linula had difficulty identifying at first. As the mist solidified into what looked like a gigantic Humanoid merged with some form of wyrm, Linula again thought of Kronisk. Making a mental note to have a serious word with the Mage-General about this later, Linula began urging the sleeping, wheezing version of herself to get up.
That was when she saw an Ursine-like thing, no bigger than her head, leap onto the pillow and issue a roar at the monster above her sleeping form. The monster and the Ursine regarded each other with their most serious expressions for a moment before the monster simply dissolved into nothingness. The sleeping, breathing Linula on the bed continued to sleep, and breathe, neither stirring nor physically moving. The Ursine, however, gently petted the sleeping Linula’s head and spoke to her in words that were not Dwarvish, nor Elvish, nor even Halfling. Yet Linula understood exactly what the Ursine was saying.
It is alright, my child, the Ursine said to Linula. Ignoring all of the objections Linula had to being called a child, or anyone’s child, it continued, I am here for you. When you sleep, the dark can never consume you again.
Linula was speechless, and struggled to find the voice to even acknowledge that she had heard the Ursine’s words.
When Linula awoke, she looked at the timepiece beside her bed and let out a breath. It was a little past the ninth hour of the day, and there were still a few days remaining before schooling and other such work was meant to resume. Rising from her bed, stripping, showering, dressing herself, and eating, Linula made mental notes concerning the state of her apartment and what needed immediate attention. She then opened the main door, checked the locks, engaged them, checked her pocket for the keyring, closed the door behind her, and did the short walk to Ruby’s apartment.
Ruby Amelda was the one tertiary student at one of Arterclius’ universities that Linula felt comfortable with calling a friend. It had not always been that way. When the two met in Nagëlheim during the final years of their secondary schooling, it had been instant dislike.
Ironically, when dislike escalated into violence, it had been the beginning of a new day in Linula’s life. What Linula had not told anyone in Nagëlheim was that she had been abused, quite badly, when she was a little girl.
After their major fight, and the resultant damage both to property and a person, Ruby and Linula had been made to participate in community service together. It was there that the horrible secret, involving violation of her personal space and body, had burst out of Linula’s head. Ruby had been the only one attentive enough to hear at the time, but she had brought it to the attention of the authorities. The perpetrators had been brought to trial, the village Ruby and Linula had grown up in (Bârikha) had burned, and Linula had attempted suicide.
The individual who had been injured in their fight was an Elvish cadet named Séindarion. Séindarion had asked one thing as a condition of forgiveness for the injury Ruby had inflicted upon him by accident. That she go with him to places and let him get to know her more. Time and repeated meetings had turned mutual unease into friendship and then love. And then Ruby asked one favour of Séindarion. To help her find a gentleman that they and Linula could join with and attend social functions with.
Séindarion had gone through a small number of the friends he had at Nagëlheim’s military academy, searching for someone who could make Linula feel comfortable in their presence. Sirian, the gentleman Séindarion thought best fit the criteria, actually turned out to be a great choice.
Now, as Linula knocked on Ruby’s door, she reflected on one of the reasons why she had baited Ruby into that life-changing fight. The problem was not that Linula envied Ruby, which she did in some ways, or even that she felt any hate toward her, which she did not. The problem was that Linula felt attracted to Ruby in a way that stirred her emotions quite profoundly. The problem was that before meeting Sirian, parts of Linula’s mind had associated sex and sexual partnership with violence and degradation. The thought of wanting to have sex with anyone, leave alone another woman, had given Linula an uncontrollable and unconscious urge to subliminate the feeling into violence. She did so with great enthusiasm.
As Ruby opened her apartment door, she smiled brightly, but uneasily, at Linula. Ruby had expected that Linula would come visiting soon. The timing was not bad, but Ruby could not help feeling very much like there was an entire universe diving the two of them.
Little was known about Linula’s family, abuse notwithstanding. After a certain age, Linula had been semi-adopted by Mimosa Brown, the most senior Mage in Bârikha. It was Mimosa who had gotten Linula into secondary schooling as a boarder in Nagëlheim, and into the tertiary institute at Arterclius. Linula herself often claimed nowadays that she had not spoken to her parents in more than a decade.
Ruby, on the other hand, loved her family and often looked forward to getting to see them again. When Linula’s abusers had been put on trial and Ruby‘s testimony was required, Ruby had spent the time between court appearances visiting her family. When that year’s schoolwork came to an end, she visited them again. The time she had spent living on her own, and the events of the prior year, had enabled her to see her parents as people with lives and feelings other than simply being her parents for the first time.
“Looking forward to the new school year?” Linula asked Ruby, putting on a smile that conveyed all of the meaning behind her question.
“I might make it the first year I put arcanium on hold and focus entirely on being a Healer,” Ruby said as she let Linula into her apartment. “Yes, in simpler language.”
“Arcanium on hold,” Linula said, partly to herself. After a lengthy pause, she continued, “I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not studying arcanium as a discipline.”
“It is not as though I am going to abandon spirit-wielding altogether,” Ruby clarified. “But one of my disciplines is very much behind the other. I am going to bring one up to the point where I can study it at my own pace. We are both almost completely done with the organised arcanium training.”
“You know that I cannot tell you anything about what you choose to study,” said Linula. “As soon as I heard the Mage Council’s plans to use projectors for communication, I knew I had to get involved. Even the most mundane thought is a picture in my mind’s eye.”
Ruby said nothing at this point. Commenting on what Linula’s mind did was a dangerous sport.
“I would love to be able to undo some of the harm I know I can do,” Linula said. Holding her hands up in a semi-clenched position and sniffling, she continued, “I find it hard enough to simply live with myself”.
Ruby felt torn in two directions. On the one hand, she wanted to walk around the table to Linula and embrace her. She had seen this near to tears look in Linula’s eyes before. There were, unfortunately, complications to such a course of action.
Without exception, Mages had a heightened sense of personal space, and a great desire to protect it. And it went without saying that the demons of Linula’s memories, as broken and suppressed as those memories now were, took her sense of personal space to a great heights.
Putting the thought of Linula’s attraction to her out of her mind for a moment, Ruby reached across the table and took hold of Linula’s hands. They had begun to tremble slightly.
Linula gave Ruby an uneasy look. For a moment, she struggled to say anything. Then, in a short burst, she gave Ruby a summary of the dream she had last night.
“They have started to sell plush toys that look like Ursidae in stores,” Ruby mentioned. “They come in a number of sizes, but they have a more childlike look to them than the Ursidae. I think they are marketing them as playthings for small children.”
“When I am finished preparing for the day, I want to visit such a store,” said Linula. “Anything that can help me sleep peacefully at the moment would be a blessing.”
Ruby excused herself for a moment, pointing out that she was still a little way from being completely dressed. Going to her bedroom, she put on the overshirt that formed the chest-portion of what Mages loosely referred to as armour. Taking a robe from her wardrobe, she pulled the heavy sleeves up her arms and over her shoulders before closing the robe around her torso and fastening the straps at the front.
Returning to the dining area, she smiled at Linula. Telling the slightly elder, slightly larger Halfling that she was ready to go, she took a set of keys from a cupboard and went to the main door.
As Linula followed her out, Ruby turned and locked the door behind them.
On their way to the commercial concourse that sat on the edge of the educational tier, Ruby and Linula passed by a number of groups of children. The sight of Dwarvish children was always somewhat puzzling to adults of other races. Although Dwarvish children were seen on occasion in other realms, this only happened occasionally, as Dwarrow were particularly conscious of safety for their young. In the past, when Ruby and Linula had seen adult Dwarrow around the various realms in which they had spent prior points in their lives, they had wondered a great deal about their physical shape.
Dwarvish males, in adult form, were renowned for being nearly as wide as they were tall. Once, Linula had mused that a single Dwarf male’s arm was thicker than both of her legs put together. But as children, Dwarrow did not look a great deal different to Halfling children. Harsher facial features and squarer outer lines were the main visible difference.
It was when the two races reached maturity that the differences became more obvious. Halflings of both sexes rarely weighed more than seventy-five pounds. A fully-grown Dwarf, male or female, could pick twice that up and throw it.
Children stopped and occasionally remarked to one another about Ruby and Linula. By now, they were used to this. Whenever adolescents or young adults of outside realms were admitted to such places as Arterclius, they were made attend information sessions. Ruby and Linula had been no different, not upon entry into Nagëlheim, and not upon entry into Arterclius. They had both been advised that although Dwarvish children were wont to regard outsiders with especially curious looks, no maliciousness existed on their part.
Dwarrow were rarely malicious to anyone who had not been so to them first.
When Ruby and Linula sighted Sarin Bloodmirth and Kîm Orccryer strolling past one school’s yard, they both did a double-take. Sarin and Kîm had children, it was well-known amidst the public. But both of those children were now a good deal past schooling age. If Sarin and Kîm were not merely on their way somewhere, it was likely one of them was in the area on official business.
“Ladies, nice to see you here,” Sarin said warmly, smiling at both Halflings. “The tertiary semester has not resumed as yet, has it?”
“It has not,” Linula told Sarin. “It will in a matter of days, however. We are going to make certain we are prepared.”
“A good idea,” Sarin said with a smile. “If I may make a minor suggestion, visiting a career guide and talking to them about your abilities would be a big help, Ruby.”
“I shall do so as soon as I can,” said Ruby. “But a lot of the choice seems to be being made for me.”
“How is that happening?” Sarin asked Ruby, puzzlement in her voice. She and Kîm began to walk with Ruby and Linula toward the commercial tier.
“You were there to hear about my last days in the Ursine village, milady,” Ruby reminded Sarin gently. “I find it surprising that you would need to ask how such things might influence my choice of specialty.”
Entering a concourse arcade of stores, the group stopped at a store. Within were numerous product displays and a large information booth. Seated at a counter to one side of the information booth was a moderately-sized Ursine sow. Regarding the new entrants curiously, the Ursine put on a smile of recognition when she saw Ruby and Linula.
“Welcome,” the sow told the new entrants.
“Is this a store, an embassy, an educational facility?” Linula asked, a little confused by what she saw inside.
“It is meant to be a little of all three,” the sow explained. “We have Dwarvish staff on hand, and they run little information sessions a lot of the time. Mostly, it is about what not to do when one is visiting the village or sees our kind around.”
Linula nodded to make sure that the sow understood she was listening intently. By now, she had wandered over to the small display of merchandise that was in one section of the storefront. Most of the shelves on the display were dominated by what the signage atop the stand declared to be “teddy bears”.
Sarin watched as Ruby and Linula looked over the shelves, at each of the plush Ursidae sitting thereon. Ruby stood a little further from the shelves than Linula, simply watching and thinking. And then, with a gasp and a stifled sob, Linula found something that caught her full attention.
Sitting on the shelf was a plush Ursine, roughly as big as Linula’s head. Its fur coat was a light brown colour not dissimilar from the soil atop a freshly planted field. The Ursine was clad in a cloth robe, a very simplified version of the kind that Ruby and Linula were presently wearing. Its face was without expression, not only in the usual bland manner of plush Ursidae. The look on this… teddy bear’s face seemed to have been deliberately set so as to provoke as little conflict with an observer as possible. Ruby just knew that this design feature had been implemented on purpose.
Turning slightly, Linula faced the Ursine that she was aware had been walking towards her for the last couple of seconds. This Ursine was a rather curious specimen, only being around four feet tall and perhaps nearly ninety pounds. In a quiet, gentle voice of imperfectly-pronounced Elvish, she asked Ruby and Linula if she could help.
“This robed… teddy bear, you call them?” Linula half-asked.
“Yes,” the Ursine gently confirmed.
“How much for that one?” Linula asked, smiling a little.
Whatever the actual, living Ursine saw in Linula’s fragmentally-smiling face, she did not like it. With a visible expression of fright, the bear went to a counter.
“Could you please read out the code on the little tag attached to the teddy bear’s ear?” The Ursine woman gently asked Linula.
Linula read out the code, a series of four letters and nine numbers. All products made within the Allied Realms were assigned such a code in order to ease and speed up the processes of pricing, cataloguing, and restocking. Typing the code into a set of keys at the counter, the bear looked at the resulting information and gave a slight smile.
“Thirty Dwarvish crowns,” the bear told Linula.
Taking a small purse out of one pocket, Linula looked through the cash she had in her possession. There was always at least a little more stored in the bank, especially since Bârikha’s government had provided her with a settlement to compensate for the earlier abuses. Although she had accepted, she had told the new government she would give it all away just to be able to wake without feeling a need to scream.
Thirty crowns was not a hardship. Taking a handful of printed notes from her purse and counting out the required amount, she handed the notes to the sow, who opened a drawer and placed the notes in it. Closing it gently, she then took a small paper bag from another drawer, took the teddy bear from the shelf, and placed it in the bag.
Gently taking the bag from the sow, Linula thanked the diminutive Ursine in the Halfling language.
Ruby and Linula left the store, uttering brief words of greeting to Sarin and Kîm, who were near the entrance.
Your friend has peculiar feelings that resulted in her “adoption” of that teddy bear, Sarin projected to Ruby. I would keep an eye on her.
Aloud, in Dwarvish, Sarin informed Ruby and Linula that she and Kîm had some business to attend to. Bidding each other farewells, the group split in two once more. As Sarin and Kîm walked in the direction of the Royal tier, Ruby and Linula strolled past several more stores.
“I did not want to say it in front of those Dwarrow,” Linula told Ruby after a long period of silence. “They scare me, especially Sarin. The teddy bear I just bought then. In colour and some features, it appears to resemble the one in my dream.”
Looking into the bag Linula carried, Ruby took the best look at the plush Ursine within that she could. Looking in Linula’s eyes, a singular, simple thought issued from her consciousness, very much intended for Linula to hear.
Perhaps one day, we might see Ursine Mages, Ruby thought. Ursidae that possess our abilities, but not our grievances.
Sitting down with a guidance counselor, Ruby thought to herself as rapidly as she could about what she was going to say. Although she was possessed of the requisite intelligence of Mages and had attended some of the best schools, she had never been the best-rated student. She was content to pass her classes and do what was required. If she did manage to excel in a class or its requirements, it was truly by accident. The scale of grades given in a subject had five major steps, with intermediate steps between them, ranging from excellence to failure. In all of her years of schooling, Ruby had never received the highest group of marks possible in the system.
But there was one exception to this rule. Although the physical side of healing presented many problems for Ruby, talking with traumatised soldiers had come easily to her. She had never engaged in deep conversations with them, nor seen anything bar the mildest cases, but Ruby had found these experiences uplifting.
Years ago now, Ruby had heard echoes of thoughts about memories from Linula’s mind. Calling these memories foul, disturbing, and disgusting was an understatement on the level of calling sex with Séindarion enjoyable.
The career counselor, a pleasant Dwarvish woman who appeared to be approximately three times Ruby’s age, took a moment to read through all of Ruby’s academic records. Ruby waited patiently. If it meant that the advice she was about to receive would be of greater quality, she did not mind waiting.
“The notes I was forwarded by your chief lecturer indicate that you are interested in psychological healing,” the counselor remarked. “Given that you have spent most of your schooling studying the arcanium, it prompts a question. Are you aware of how much study is required to meet requirements?”
“I was told eight years of study by a senior Mage,” Ruby recalled. “Two more if I want to be qualified to diagnose physical dysfunctions of the brain, and prescribe related medicine.”
“That is about right,” the counselor confirmed. “I am not going to lie to you. You are at a serious disadvantage compared to other student healers. You know most healers start studying the arcane elements of it when they start secondary school.”
“You know I have studied the basics of arcane channeling,” said Ruby.
“Yes, that is why I am going to recommend that you put all arcanium studies on hold and focus upon healing near exclusively until assessors place you at an expert rating.” The counselor told Ruby, smiling.
“I believe you mean all of my formal studies in arcanium,” Ruby pointed out. “Nobody really gives up the arcanium. It would be like giving up seeing, or hearing.”
“One more thing,” the counselor said. “I have been told you are in close contact with the Halfling woman called Linula.”
“You would not need anyone to point that out to you,” Ruby mused. “Since coming to this realm, we have done everything together.”
“I have to warn you,” the counselor continued. “She is being seen to by professionals. No matter how tempted you might feel, or how she tempts you, you must not use any of your professional psychological skills with her. She is a complex case that requires expertise and experience to help.”
“This is difficult for me,” Ruby said with an uneasy sniffle. “Linula is more than simply a friend now. We do double dates regularly. We have seen each other naked.”
“I do not need to know the rest,” the counselor interrupted. “If Linula says anything that sounds like a solicitation for a professional opinion, you must tell her you know her too personally for her to engage you professionally.”
Ruby nodded, and thought about the situation hard. Although she had thought of Linula as a good friend for a while now, socialising with her was frequently uneasy. Linula loved her in a way that was both different and similar to how Linula loved Sirian. Thus far, Ruby had deflected or failed to return this particular segment of Linula’s feelings. But the question lingered in Ruby’s mind. What if she felt what Linula felt?
Quietly, Ruby affirmed to the counselor that she would follow the protocol set for student healers.
Linula sat in a room with a number of different students, all of whom were studying projection and illusory arts. Unlike classes in the arcanium, healing, or military pursuits, the ratio of male to female students here was almost perfectly even. The mixture of races was also surprisingly even, save for a minor bias toward Dwarrow. Being such a new discipline of study, these arts were only being taught in two cities. At present, the students in this room were discussing the use of glass lenses and reflective mirrors to capture an image of what stood before the front of the lens.
The Dwarrow in the room were at something of an advantage. Dwarvish engineers had been constructing devices of this description in one form or another for years, even decades. Prototypes had been used to improve scouting and targeting, particularly with artillery. Now, these students had the assignment of using capturing devices to make artistic portraits.
The lecturer had left more than a quarter of an hour ago. Each lecture was only supposed to last a couple of hours. But the students were discussing how best to divide themselves into groups, and assign roles within each group.
Linula had found herself an Elf and a fellow Halfling who were willing to work with her. The Elf wanted to take the role of operating the capture device. The Halfling was volunteering to operate the lighting and related equipment. When the subject turned to Linula’s role, however, she found herself a little lost for words. At least, she was lost for words until she volunteered to be the model. She told her group-mates that she had an idea, but they would discuss it further outside of this room. In agreement, the group-mates left the lecture room and went to the school’s concourse.
Linula went to one of the school’s lavatories. Washing her face, looking in a mirror, and contemplating the idea she had in mind, she found herself wondering what Ruby was doing at this moment.
Exiting the lavatory after thoroughly washing her hands, Linula managed to walk about ten feet before she sensed the presence of another person behind her. She had enough time to turn to her side before a hand clamped upon the back of her neck and held her. Although the hand was large enough to encircle her throat, she knew from the thin surfaces of the fingers that it was a Halfling’s hand.
A pair of lips moved to within an inch of Linula’s left ear. Although she could not place the voice that issued from it, she knew it was one of the male Halflings from her class.
“I know what you are planning to do with that group,” the voice told Linula in an accusing, hateful tone. “I know how you lied about what people like my dad did and let Bârikha burn. You should be back there, serving men like him.”
That was enough for Linula. Images of perverted old men like her grandfather flooded into her head. Clenching her left hand into a fist and raising it, she swung it down into this Halfling’s groin with all of her might. The hand immediately released her throat. Staggering backward, the male Halfling had enough time to right his balance before he saw a second Halfling, one with fire-red hair and green eyes, enter the hall.
Issuing a word in the Halfling language that was considered so offensive by the elders that the young made a habit of deliberately saying it to them, Linula set a cloud of energy forming around her right hand. Ruby had enough time to loudly enquire as to what was going on before Linula threw this energy at the male in front of her.
The energy knocked him back twenty feet down the hall, hitting him in the torso with such force that he flew a dozen feet down the hall and slid another eight. As he struggled to get up, Linula furiously leaped on top of him. She punched him in the face, using wild, somewhat clumsy, broad swings that rained down into the young male Halfling’s cheeks like projectiles from a catapult.
As a group of other students and a lecturer from another class ran into the hall to see what was happening, Linula continued to punch her attacker. It was not until a member of the campus security, an armour-clad Dwarf, took hold of Linula and lifted her off the other student that the punching stopped.
Hearing a quick projection from Linula, Ruby went to find Linula’s group-mates and tell them what had happened.
Linula was herded into an office where she spoke with the campus security. She was asked to tell, in her words, exactly what happened. After ten minutes, a healer working for the school brought the security officer a sheet of paper. Thereon was the male student’s version of events. Seeing the name on the paper, Staddoc, Linula waited for the security officer to tell her what was on the paper.
Staddoc was apparently claiming that he had simply told her a joke, perhaps a somewhat playful one, and she had simply turned and assaulted him. Hearing this prompted Linula to gesture and recite a few words, in spite of the security officer’s objections.
The spherical, shiny, black orb that rose out of Linula’s sidebag instantly changed the security officer’s expression.
“You know who I am,” Linula said to the security officer. “I do not think there is a person who was living in the Allied Realms during the past three years that does not know who I am. After I show you what this special motion recording device on loan to me from Lord Kronisk has captured, you will tell the administration of this school that either that little piece of shit can remain here, or I can. They can try both if they are as idiotic as the administrators in Bârikha, but that will just end with me killing him. You can quote me on that part.”
The orb began to project images of what Linula saw, and the sounds she heard.
Leaving the campus, Linula apologised to her group-mates, and to Ruby, for the delay she had helped put into their day. Bursting into tears, she sat upon a bench at the side of the tier’s path. Both of her group-mates, a Halfling and Elf who both happened to be male, kept their distance. Ruby put a hand on Linula’s shoulder and whispered that it was okay. She had friends in every realm, even Bârikha, and noone was going to willingly let anything happen to her. Linula calmed down slightly at this, and wrapped her arms around Ruby in a friendly, but tight, embrace.
Standing again, Linula walked with Ruby and her newfound school friends to the student apartment building. Talking in slightly hushed tones, Linula led the group into her apartment.
“The idea I wanted to propose for the portrait project is simple,” Linula finally told those around her. “I will get naked, stand in front of the lens, and you two will take the best shots you can. We will make about two dozen images, pick the best one, and enlarge it for submission for the assignment.”
“Was this idea the one you had before this afternoon’s incident, or after?” The Elvish groupmate enquired gently.
“Both,” Linula replied. “If you could have heard the way that piece of shit spoke to me, you would know the only thing that has changed is my determination.”
Ruby chuckled a little, until Linula turned to her and smiled uneasily.
“I have just had a little thought,” said Linula. “I would like it if you were in the portrait with me.”
Ruby recoiled, in spite of the fact that Linula’s request did not surprise her so much. Linula did not have very many inhibitions, and those that she did have were, much like her memory after one battle, fragmentary and disjointed. Ruby did not really know if Linula was merely messing with her mind, or completely serious.
“Linula, if you really want me to do this, I have a few questions,” said Ruby. “First of all, who is going to see the images? Second, how… invasive, I guess the word should be, are these portrait images going to be? Third, I have no experience in modelling or acting, so I am going to be very lost.”
“The answer to your first question is that the most seen in the images will be semi-distant views of us naked,” Linula told Ruby. “The same kind of view Séindarion would get from a distance of about six feet. The rest of how much ends up in view depends on how you choose to pose for the camera. Now, the other two questions, I can answer for you whilst we prepare.”
Ruby thought for what seemed to her like hours. It would be nice to have some images of this kind in a form that she could send to Séindarion, just to remind him that she was here, still his, and eager for him to come visiting once more. But the thought of there being hard copy images of her in a state of undress that anyone with working eyes could look at was a little unnerving. Then she thought about something a Mage in Nagëlheim’s tertiary school had told her when she was just commencing her final year of secondary school.
Every living thing, even an Orc, was beautiful in some way, this Mage told Ruby. There was never going to be a shortage of people who would stare at mere images and use it as fuel for their lust. But this did not mean that the adults who could look at nude images of young women had to suffer for their peers’ failings.
That made up Ruby’s mind for her. Following Linula into the bathroom, she asked in the Halfling speech exactly what she had to do. In the same language, Linula asked her to strip down to her underwear, doing so as she finished making the request.
When both women were clad only in underwear and stockings, they began to apply make-up to one another. Per the Elf’s instructions, they applied a very light amount, and different types, compared to what they would normally apply for a big night out. Small amounts to highlight the eyes, cut lighting glare, and soften the edges of faces were applied.
Ruby was about to hand the make-up kit to Linula when Linula, in one quick motion, took hold of her and kissed her mouth. At first, Ruby squirmed and struggled, but thinking about what was happening prompted her to calm down and let Linula do what she wanted. Eventually, Ruby thought, Linula would stop to let them both get back to their tasks.
“I would ask you to stop doing that,” Ruby told Linula in a breathless voice. “But I think I have started to enjoy it.”
“I am so glad to hear you say that,” Linula said with a chuckle as Ruby began to gently dab make-up on her face. “I was almost ready to give up.”
Together, Ruby and Linula laughed. When Ruby finished making up Linula’s face, they put on the Mage uniform robes that Linula had earlier taken out of a wardrobe and brought here. Being fitted to Linula, the one that Ruby wrapped around herself was slightly loose around the chest and hips, but it was otherwise a good fit.
Emerging from the bathroom and finding numerous pieces of lighting and capture equipment in Linula’s lounge, they quietly asked if they were expected to stand in any particular position. Taking a pair of small white balls, probably the same kind used in some games, Linula reasoned, the Elf placed them carefully on the rug. Explaining that these were markers to indicate the most forward position in which he wanted the two women to stand.
Taking their positions, Ruby and Linula waited for direction. Ruby shook nervously, her mind reeling with a final pulse of doubt about the idea.
Quietly, the Elf behind the camera told Ruby to picture herself on a beach. Ruby closed her eyes and visualised the beach on Bârikha’s Northern edge. Watching herself walk along the wet sand in her swimwear, Ruby smiled when the Elf then told her to picture herself there with anyone she wanted to have with her. Visualising Séindarion near her, clad in little other than swimwear, she felt herself relaxing all over.
Opening her eyes, she told the crew that she was ready. Following the Elf’s instructions to open their robes slightly, Ruby and Linula pulled the Mage robes open and revealed the centre line of their torsoes to the capture device. The Halfling adjusting the lighting revealed an appreciation of their forms, perhaps a little more than one would expect in a professional situation. The Elf behind the camera, however, simply issued instructions and took shots. Occasionally, his voice or his physical appearance betrayed signs that he was enjoying this shoot more than a professional would want. But he kept himself under control and directed the two women through a series of poses that they began to enjoy.
The vertical gap between the sides of the robes was opened further. A slightly obscured view of the dips between Ruby’s and Linula’s breasts became a slightly guarded view of their breasts proper. Then the robes were handed to the Halfling lighting assistant, who placed them on seats in the dining area that he had marked according to whose body they had been removed from.
The shoot continued pleasantly, in a mostly professional manner. Linula would occasionally close in on Ruby and kiss her between shots, but Ruby professed no objections to this. On the contrary, kissing Linula every so often even helped her to relax and feel at ease here.
Between shots and breaks to eat light amounts, Ruby and Linula undressed until they wore nothing but stockings. Taking a final series of shots, the Elf ended the shoot by saying that he and his Halfling friend needed to take a little time to cool down. Linula’s response was to ask them to leave the photography equipment with her and Ruby. Taking a quick look at the two women, the Elf and Halfling told them which of the nearby diners they planned to cool their heels in.
Thanking the two men, Ruby and Linula put the robes back on, briefly, in order to see them out. Once Linula’s classmates had left the apartment, Linula led Ruby back to her lounge, and removed her robe.
“There are two wonderful men in Nagëlheim that miss us,” Linula told Ruby. Going to her bedroom, she took a small object from a drawer that looked somewhat like a battery. She then returned to the lounge, removed a similar object from the capture device, and replaced that with this one.
Smiling at Ruby, she continued, “I want to send those men something that will keep us in their minds”.
Okay, so that is the short story I wrote in an attempt to explain why Ruby and Linula seem a good deal more amorous toward one another in story three onward. I hope it was at least less of a chore to read than it proved to translate into code that would not look too shithouse on this site. Any comments concerning the content, plot, and execution would be much appreciated. Hopefully the response will prompt more postings of my fiction material.
Well, that was painful. I was told by one commentator on my Fudgebook that reading this page on their laptop was too difficult because of the font I chose to differentiate the story text from the rest of the post. Rather than point out that this is what the font-size changing commands are specifically for, I decided to change the font because I was having some difficulty with it, too. Unfortunately, that meant replacing more than 115 sets of individual HTML codes because of the way Qumana codes my posts. If anyone knows a better editor for WordPress posts or where to tell the Qumana folk that they need to do some updating, I would appreciate being dropped a line about it. Anyway, I hope the text was pleasant to read, at least.
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