Free Fiction: Advent 2010 – Day Twenty-One
(This is a long one. I’m warning you in advance. *laughs* Happy Solstice, everyone! May the coming year’s light bring blessings to you and yours. ~Kris)
Advent 2010: Day Twenty-One
Title: A Night’s Service
Characters: Nora, Althaea (of Greek Mythology)
From: Original Drabble
Word Count: 2578
Nora laughed as she bumped into a couple of the other servants who scrambled to clean up the large table in the great hall following the first of the two banquets of Saturnalia. The first had been a source of great merriment for the servants. There was no other time of year when men and women like Nora could sit at the grand, ornate table, much less be served by their masters. Some of the men like her cousin, Aetos, used the opportunity to make friendly jabs at the lords and king, but, then again, men like her cousin weren’t going to move up much in the staff. Like it or not, Saturnalia only lasted a few days, and after that, the lords and ladies they served would remember who had treated them with disrespect, even if it was in the spirit of the holiday to make merry.
Nora enjoyed the holiday in a slightly more subdued way. Oh, she danced and drank wine and made her libations to the gods like everyone else, but she had the sense to avoid the drunken orgies, which were only fun until you were stuck with an unplanned pregnancy throughout the next year, and then another mouth to feed following that. With her mother ill from the frost that had come to the hills surrounding the city, the last thing Nora could afford was to lose her ability to tend the lord and lady. She was part of the reason her mother’s life thread remained strong enough to elude the Fates’ shears, and even in a time of joy, lust, and pleasure, she remembered herself.
Apologizing to the other ladies clearing the table, she made her way to the kitchens with her load of dishes. The banquet was over, their masters released from their temporary role reversal, and they were expected to have a second traditional banquet on the table in just another two notches of the candles. A tune was struck up by someone washing dishes, and she joined in both the work and merriment, singing the melody and laughing when two of the kitchen boys put aside their tasks to kiss and fondle one another just a few paces away. It made her cheeks flush to see everyone so open in their pursuits, but she had never found fault in them.
“Nora!” The voice came from the entrance to the kitchens, and she turned to see Calista, one of the handmaidens beckoning her. She dried her hands quickly before crossing the bustling kitchen. She didn’t even have to speak up. Calista beat her to it. “Queen Althaea wishes to see you.”
Nora’s blue eyes widened, and her heart pounded in her chest. “Have I done something to displease her?” she asked desperately, but Calista just shrugged and shook her head. Nora wrung her hands for a moment before nodding, and she followed Calista up through the stone estate. She did her best to smooth her dark hair back and make herself presentable as they walked.
Queen Althaea wasn’t just one of the ladies in Calydon, she was wife to King Oeneus. Nora had seen her at the first banquet, had actually blushed when Althaea had refilled her water goblet. It had been something she was going to tell her parents when she returned home. Now, she wondered if she had inadvertently done something wrong. Even during Saturnalia, she was just a maid and kitchen servant. Oh, gods, this could be bad. Very very bad, indeed.
Nora clenched her hands into fists so they wouldn’t tremble as she was admitted to the Queen’s chambers, which were adjoined to the royal bedchamber by a door that she noted was closed. At least it wasn’t the queen and king she had offended; one of the two was bad enough.
“Leave us,” Althaea ordered from behind an expensive, wooden screen, it’s carved sections half draped by fine, discarded garments. Before Nora could even look behind her, Calista was gone, and the heavy door closed.
Nora dropped to her knees and prostrated, afraid to look up when Althaea stepped from behind the screen. She listened as the footsteps came closer, and she could feel the weight of Althaea’s gaze. Unable to keep her hands in fists, she couldn’t help but tremble with uncertainty.
“You are Nora, the servant girl I saw at the banquet this evening, correct?”
Nora had to swallow against the dryness of her throat before answering. “Yes, my queen.”
She heard the shift of clothing and the jingle of metal jewelry as Althaea crouched in front of her, and her heart sped, the trembling of her hands worsening. “Do not fear me, Nora,” Althaea ordered, reaching under her chin and forcing her head up. “Look at me.”
Nora complied, though she knew her eyes betrayed her lingering fears. Althaea was beautiful, her blond hair cascading over her shoulders in waves and curls that glimmered in the firelight. The brown eyes that looked down at her were rich and glimmered with amusement. It was that emotion that finally eased Nora’s panic. Queen Althaea wasn’t known for anger or mistreating her servants and slaves, so if there was no trace of ill intent in her eyes, perhaps she wasn’t called to be punished after all.
“How did you come to be in the service of my husband’s house?” Althaea questioned.
“Your s-son, Meleager, m-my queen,” Nora stuttered. “He was playing near the stream by my parents’ home in the hills. I had been sent for water, and when he saw me, he…”
Althaea tilted her head when Nora trailed off. “Go on,” she encouraged, genuine curiosity coloring her tone.
“He was only a child,” Nora prefaced, “but he saw me and told his maid I was a pretty naiad tending the stream. Both his maid and I tried to explain I was not, but he insisted I was a water spirit and that I should come bless the stream that runs past your estate. That was four years ago, my queen.” She paused before averting her eyes, her cheeks heating again. “I suppose he has learned now that I am but a simple servant.”
Althaea laughed, and the sound was like a warm caress to Nora. “My son was right, though. You are very pretty. With hair dark as the stones in the river and eyes the pale shade of a moonlit stream, I cannot blame him for mistaking you.”
Nora thought her face would burst into flames, so powerful was her blush. “You flatter me,” she whispered humbly.
“Rise, Nora,” Althaea responded, waving away her modesty. She did as told, and was surprised when Althaea took her hand and tucked a stray lock of dark hair behind her ear. “I would like you to wait on me tonight. Unless you have other plans,” she added politely.
Nora had the distinct feeling the gods were playing tricks on her, but perhaps Althaea was being gracious and asking her permission because it was Saturnalia. In any case, a hesitant smile tugged at her lips. How could she refuse such an offer? Even if it was only tonight, she might be able to advance her place amongst the servants if she did well. “I would be happy to, my queen.”
“Excellent. And please,” Althaea chuckled, “use my name while in this room. Tonight, I am not Queen of Calydon.”
Althaea led Nora by the hand to a comfortable lounging area. The padded circle was nearly large enough to be a bed, and the pillows and fine fabrics draping it from the ceiling added to the beauty of it. Nora assumed she would help by first brushing Althaea’s golden hair. There was a brush nearby, and she picked it up proactively.
Another laugh lilted from Althaea, and Nora was uncertain why but unwilling to ask after it as she was pulled down to sit on the edge of the circular mattress. It was soft beneath her, and she removed her simple sandals before shifting so she was behind Althaea, who smiled and presented her hair. Nora brushed the hair to smoothness, carefully working out the tangles until it was a soft, shimmering mass that spilled like golden liquid over her fingers.
When Althaea turned to face her, she was rewarded with a bright smile, and her heart leap with happiness. “I’d like to thank you, Nora,” Althaea purred, obviously pleased with her work.
Althaea stood at the edge of the mattress, framed by the beautifully woven drapes. Nora couldn’t help but admire her beauty, but her breath truly caught in her throat when Althaea pulled the peg of her dress free at the nape of her neck and let the fabric fall from her body, leaving her nude, her skin glowing faintly in the firelight.
Nora seemed frozen in place as Althaea climbed atop the mattress in front of her and reached forward, cupping her breast through her dress, which seemed so coarse and simple compared to the queen’s wardrobe. Althaea leaned in, and when their lips met, Nora gasped, the spell keeping her immobilized finally breaking. “M-my queen! I–”
“Shh,” Althaea soothed. “I meant what I said before. You are lovely, and I would like to thank you for your service.”
“Do you find me unattractive after birthing my four children?” Althaea asked.
“Yes,” Nora answered quickly. “You’re like a gift from Apollo, made of the sun’s golden rays, but–”
“But your body doesn’t respond to those like yourself?” Althaea interrupted, her eyes open and honest, not filled with the beginnings of anger like Nora half expected them to be.
Nora had to swallow against the pounding of her heart. “No, it isn’t that. You’re queen of these lands. To be with you would tempt the Fates and risk the wrath of your husband, my king.” For all her words and worries, however, she had yet to move away or take Althaea’s hand from her chest.
Althaea’s laughter was warm and deep, laden with sensuality that made Nora grow damp between her legs. “I wouldn’t worry about him, if I were you. He’s off making merry with some stable boy or guard he fancies, and so long as I don’t take a man’s seed inside me, he won’t care a whit.”
Nora could do nothing but stare for several seconds. “You… fancy me?” The rumors said that Althaea’s son, Meleager, had been sired by Ares. They also said her young daughter, Deianeira, was the product of an affair with Dionysus. How could one sought after by the gods of war and revelry possibly be interested in her? It was ridiculous, insane, and the most erotic compliment Nora could ever receive.
“I will show you,” Althaea promised, her voice like sweet honey as she brushed her lips across Nora’s again. “All you have to do is say yes, Nora.”
Gods above, the choice was now hers! Nora’s mind reeled, but she could think of nothing to say as Althaea’s hand gently massaged her breast, her thumb and forefinger toying her nipple to hardness through the fabric. She moaned, and any doubts she had drifted away like steam produced by the fire of passion that was lit inside her.
“Yes,” she breathed, and her lips were instantly sealed by Althaea’s, her mouth gently possessed by a knowing tongue that found and exploited her sensitive spots in seconds. Heat unfurled between her legs, and she hesitantly reached forward, her fingertips encountering the warm flesh of Althaea’s belly and slightly distended breasts.
When Althaea moaned at even the slightest touch, Nora gave in to instinct and hugged her close, surrendering to the kiss as her hands took in every inch of Althaea’s beautiful body. The lingering signs of childbirth only made her more stunning to Nora’s mind, and she pulled back from the kiss to gasp out Althaea’s name, speaking it without any title for the first time.
Althaea’s smile warmed her to her core, and her own clothing was soon cast aside and her body spread out beneath Althaea’s dark, heated gaze. She had dallied secretly with other women before, but none of them had looked at her like that. It made her pulse race, her body eager, and when Althaea dipped down to kiss and suckle at her nipples, she moaned her desperation.
The sweet mouth moved back and forth between her nipples until they were left aching, throbbing in time with her heartbeat. She shifted on the luxurious mattress, her hips pressing up, her groin aching for the same attention.
Althaea finally abandoned her nipples in order to kiss her again, and Nora clung to her. Two fingers slid between her folds and stroked her, forcing a cry from her lips. She panted Althaea’s name over and over as soon as her lips were free, and it felt like her queen was blessed with the hands and mouths of two. The sensations that were granted to every part of her seemed too overwhelming to be produced by a single woman.
The fingers gently explored her, and she moaned her encouragement when a single digit slipped inside her. She was still tight, having only slept with one man in the past, and a second digit stretched her nearly to the point of discomfort. She whimpered, but Althaea soothed her, whispering. “Shh… no more than this. You’re perfect, so slick and passionate.”
The compliments sounded so genuine, and her flush brightened when Althaea’s tongue moved between her folds and up to that perfect place of sensitivity. The fingers shifted, moved back and forth inside her, matching the strokes and swirls of Althaea’s tongue.
She was lost, completely at Althaea’s mercy as wave after wave of pleasure rushed through her, the tide dictated by Althaea’s expert movements between her legs. That wonderful pressure she had only managed to feel with other women she had slept with began to build inside her. It grew in her center, pooled in her sex, and when that sensitive nub was suckled and flicked, it exploded out of her with a rush of light and sound. She arched her back and cried out, her hands tangled in golden silk, her mind consumed by pleasure and lust.
The touches to her body softened, and she trembled as the fingers were replaced by tongue. She squirmed and moaned in the aftermath, jolts of pleasure making her twitch. Althaea kissed her way back up Nora’s body, and the instant Nora was able, she pulled Althaea close, resting with their limbs tangled.
She kissed those lightly swollen lips, tasted herself on Althaea’s tongue, and struggled to regain her breath as she let her head fall back to the softness beneath her head.
“Do you… wish me to…?” Nora breathed as Althaea moved them to their sides, still entwined.
“Not yet, and not until you’ve rested,” Althaea chuckled warmly, pressing a kiss against her throat. “It can even wait until tomorrow, when you will officially start your duties as one of my handmaidens.”
Nora gasped softly and pushed Althaea back so their eyes could meet. “Are you a gift of Morpheus’, sent to me in my sleep after too much wine and dancing?”
“No,” Althaea laughed softly, making Nora shiver. “You are the gift, chosen by my own son. The gods smile down at us tonight, Nora. Smile back.”
Nora couldn’t help herself.
She smiled until her face ached and laughed until Althaea silenced her with more kisses.
Althaea was a queen in Greek Mythology. She was the wife of King Oeneus of Calydon and was rumored to be courted not only by the God of War, Ares, but also the God of Wine and Revelry, Dionysus, bearing them a son and daughter, respectively. That son was Meleager, the warrior famous for slaying the Caldonian Boar with the help of the huntress Atalanta. Her daughter, Deianeira, was Heracles’ third wife, and the one who unwittingly killed him with the poisoned Shirt of Nessus. Although Althaea’s story ends in tragedy when she is forced to kill Meleager and takes her own life afterward, this short story is a glimpse of the time before Meleager reaches manhood. I hope you enjoyed it!