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A Storm of Shadows
Luckily when she got back to the room, Candrima was already asleep. Sleep, however, was the last thing Jessie was thinking about. Her mind was racing; what in the hell was she going to do tomorrow when it came time to go to Kutkh? She was so lost in thought she didn’t even realize Akari was in the room, waiting to draw her a bath. Damned near gave her a heart attack when she spoke.
"Miele, are you all right?"
"Geez, Akari, you scared the hell out of me!" She held her hand to her chest, trying to slow the hammering of her heart.
"You apparently have something on your mind. It’s not like you to be so unobservant." The older woman gathered together some bath oil and a clean robe before going into the bathroom. Turned to make sure Miele had followed her in before turning on the water. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"I…I’ve kind of worked myself into a corner." Biting her lip, and figuring she was screwed regardless, she decided to confide in Akari. "Lord Kutkh wanted me to attend a meeting he’s having tomorrow, and I asked not to go. I told him I was planning something special for him, but needed time to prepare."
"Ah. And now you don’t know what to do that would be impressive enough to risk Kutkh’s punishment?" She watched as Miele reluctantly nodded her head. "You are not a stupid woman, so whatever reason that made you defy Lord Kutkh must be important." This time there was no reaction from the young woman, but her silence was acknowledgement enough. "Do you have anything in mind as far as what would pacify a god?"
Jessie looked sharply at Akari. She had not imagined the sarcastic emphasis the woman had placed on ‘a god’. Now was not the time to spill her guts, but perhaps she had more of an ally in Akari than she realized. Focusing back on the situation at hand, she sighed. "I…I’m going to have to seduce him."
She shook her head. "I haven’t figured that out yet."
Akari watched as the young woman stepped into the tub, sinking down into the steaming water until it closed in over her shoulders. "May I make some suggestions?"
"Please. I need all the help I can get at the moment."
"Start the evening off by dancing for Kutkh."
Jessie frowned at the thought. "But, I have no music."
"Huyana is very talented with the wooden flute; I’m sure you both could come up with something appropriate." Akari thought for a moment. "There was also…I’ll need to see if I can find it…something that was picked up from a trader a while back. I don’t know if it would be to your liking, but you could listen to it and see what you think."
A picture flashed through her mind, a time not too long ago where she had had to dance for another. Pushing the memory back down quickly, she splashed water on her face to hide the sudden rush of tears. As long as she focused completely on the present, she could hold onto enough of her sanity to muddle through. "Well," she said, "I do know I won’t be wearing one of those damned crystal contraptions."
Akari smiled knowingly. "Kutkh may not be like Ba’al, but he can be sadistic in more subtle ways."
"Can you get a hold of something similar to that turquoise outfit I first wore? Maybe something in a sheer black silk?"
"I think I can come up with something. Now, what else are you going to do?" Saw the young woman shrug. "It would probably serve you best to have Zillah and Kaminari assist you in this seduction." Jessie tossed her a disgusted look at the suggestion. Akari reached out and placed her hand on Jessie’s shoulder. "My dear one," she said softly, "I know that sexual foreplay with females does not appeal to you in the least. However, the more distraction Kutkh has, the better. You know how much he likes watching women pleasure each other. Zillah and Kaminari can fulfill those roles while you are otherwise occupied pleasuring Kutkh. If it were just one other female, that role would inevitably fall to you. Plan ahead, and you can avoid the acts that displease you, yet still impress Kutkh."
"Do you think they will help me do this? I mean, I don’t exactly have a stellar reputation among Kutkh’s women. Whenever I do venture into the main quarters, the most I get are glares and whispers of ‘Cron’la-has’ from them."
Akari laughed. "So, they’re calling you ‘Raven’s bitch’? Jealousy is gnawing at them; Kutkh has a habit of changing his women as often as he changes his pants, yet he has called you to his chambers every night since the first time he took you. Their pecking order probably feels threatened."
"Well, they can peck away. I’d willingly trade places with them so as to not have so much of Kutkh’s attention."
Akari retrieved the container of shampoo from the shelf overhead. "The good thing is, Huyana, Zillah and Kaminari are some of the newer slaves. They have seen how well you watch over the little one, and unlike some of the other odalisques, they have a heart. I have no doubt that they’ll help you." Taking the silver pitcher from the tray, Akari filled it with warm water before pouring it over Jessie’s hair. "Now, let’s finish up your bath, and then get you to bed. You’re going to need your sleep before what’s to come tomorrow."
Without another word, Jessie let Akari finish her task. And, if nothing else, at least now she had some mental direction to go in as far as Kutkh was concerned. The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on her. Her accomplices would be Huyana, Zillah and Kaminari…rain, shadow and thunder. It couldn’t be more appropriate.
Akari was able to gather enough items to fashion an outfit like Jessie had requested. A long, rectangular piece of sheer black silk was tied at her hip, draping long to the side, but leaving the other leg exposed. Sheer matching panties offer a little modesty. Another length of matching fabric, this one narrow but long, was crisscrossed over her breasts, looped around the back of her neck and then tied across mid torso. Jessie had been unusually quiet throughout the day, but Akari attributed that to a case of nerves over what was to come that evening. After making sure her outfit was perfect, Akari used black kohl to outline Jessie’s eyes, winging slightly at the corners, before darkening her lashes. A sweep of metallic copper shadow over her lids brought out the green of her eyes. The rest she kept neutral. Akari stepped back to observe the results, then smiled. Zillah, Kaminari and Huyana had already gathered in her room, having been more than willing to help when Akari told them of her need. Their attire was similar to Jessie’s, except Zillah wore a royal purple that brought out her fiery red hair and pale complexion, Kaminari wore a subtle metallic gold that highlighted her black hair and bronze skin tone, and Huyana wore an ice blue, the hue setting off her pale blonde hair and light skin.
Ultimately it was Akari who provided a unique turn to the scenario for the evening. While Huyana would use her musical talents to provide background accompaniment for what was to come after Jessie’s dance, it was the item Akari had from the trader that provided the music for the dance itself. After much searching she produced what Jessie recognized as a small flash drive.
"This has…unusual…music, but the rhythm might be more suited to what you need, versus the flute." Accessing a control port near the door, Akari plugged the drive in, selecting the files. After a moment of silence, the room was filled with the sound of Melissa Etheridge singing "I’m The Only One." Jessie had to struggle to hold back hysterical laughter. It had a perfect bump and grind rhythm, plus the addition of the ultimate tongue-in-cheek lyrics, given the situation. The other women found the music strange, but intriguing. When that song ended, it was followed by "Similar Features". Ultimately it was too much…Jessie started giggling, and it grew into full-blown laughter. Akari looked at her worriedly, wondering if the pressure hadn’t caused her to lose her grip on reality. The other women exchanged glances, thinking the same thing.
"Miele?" Akari said cautiously.
Jessie held her stomach tightly as she gasped for breath, the muscles hurting from her hysteria. "I…I’m okay, Akari. The music is perfect. Too perfect, actually. I just realized exactly what I’m going to do this evening." The expression on Akari’s face didn’t change, especially given Jessie’s slightly wild-eyed appearance. And she did nothing to reassure Akari when she shrugged fatalistically. "He’ll either like it, or he’ll kill me for it. Flip a coin."
The older woman decided silence was her best option, and instead left the room momentarily, bringing back a box containing daninha with pipes and papers. Akari had seen others lose their sanity, but those were the ones who were subjected to Lord Ba’al. She hadn’t seen it happen with Lord Kutkh. Then again, Kutkh maintained a fairly regular rotation of slaves…perhaps he had pushed Miele too far with his constant attention. Jessie packed one of the pipes and lit it, drawing slowly on the stem, the pungent smoke filling her lungs, while Kaminari and Zillah discussed their roles for the evening with Jessie. Unless Kutkh specifically asked for Huyana, she was only going to provide the music, which was fine with her. She was another who didn’t particularly enjoy the group scene Kutkh favored so highly. As the drug permeated her consciousness, Jessie fleetingly wondered if she would be around to see another day. That she didn’t care one way or another spoke volumes of her state of mind.
A half hour later, they made their way to Kutkh’s room after Akari informed them he was waiting. The younger odalisques let Jessie take the lead—this night was her creation, after all. When she stopped at the door, they waited, too; for what, they had no idea. If they could have read her thoughts, though, they would have been able to feel her heart breaking. Jessie stood quietly, looking at the door, knowing that once she crossed that threshold there was no turning back. Before doing so she closed her eyes, reaching out across the distance, trying to touch the one person who meant the most to her. ‘I’m so sorry, sweetheart’, she whispered in her mind. ‘No matter what…I’ll always love you.’ With that, she pushed what was left of ‘her’ back into the furthest reaches of her mind. Squaring her shoulders, Jessie opened the doors and stepped inside.
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