The party was still going and it was almost true dawn. I sat in a niche in the baths at the Folly. Mil had moved heaven and earth and paid a great deal to be at the forfront of the new trend to swimming in the city. Very few of the older party goers were still there, or still conscious. An older Aitzas betrayed his location with a fruity snore rising from the middle of a miniature garden, upon the chaise there.
The mammoka, I could see in the garden outside, through the enormous windows. He was between the bathing house and the terraces, his riding platform on the ground to one side. He was chained by one foot, to a massive log and seemed to be sleeping, standing, rocking gently as music still wafted from the biggest ballroom, his trunk slowly curling and uncurling as he swayed. I wondered, did mammoka snore?
A crowd of young Aitzas and Aitza lounged around the edges of the swimming bath, half lying half sitting, smoking from the tall pipes or personal pipes, while servants were the only ones still on their feet, bringing trays of fresh wine and spirits, re-filling the tall pipes. Four or five Gybir swam in the cool pool and an Aitza I didn’t recognize waded. I’ve been being good so long I’m tired of it. There was a fair amount of space in the deepest part and I went with the impulse. I let the sweet smoke of ‘herb stream out of my lungs, handed the pipe off to Resh who lounged on the cushion next to me, stood up... and fully dressed, dove into the pool.
There was a bit of splashing and shouting and a desultory water fight after that, since I’d splashed a Gybir. Farasha wasn’t around and Ky, laughing from the pool side, hurled an apple out toward me.
Benthasas Monnen lunged from the shallow end of the pool and managed to intercept it, but got too deep when he came down and lost it and the apple became the ball in a game of swimming, wading, splashing keep away.
I managed to pull off my shirt and sandals, piecemeal, in the melee and either they let me win it or I was able to swim well enough to snatch it up after a while. I’d lost the cape somewhere earlier in the evening, but I was certain it would turn up somewhere.
“Serina,” I said as gallantly as I could, slightly herbed, a little drunk, “I believe you might have dropped this.” Things were lovely and rosy and I could hear birds chirping. Strange since it wasn’t true dawn yet. Perhaps it was just the herb.
She giggled at me. “Yes, Minis.” I tried not to drip on her as I presented her with the bruised fruit. “I have a surprise for you.”
“A surprise? For me? What more surprise do I need after this night?”
“Come into the hot pool room.”
The Itzan baths had their hot pools in tiny glass rooms off the main room and if they were closed up they tended to fill with steam, making the images inside vague and ghostly and, not surprisingly, private. If you were not pressed up against the glass no one from outside could truly see you at all. Most of what people could see would be the nimbus of steam around the lights inside but not anything else.
They had been very popular all evening and once or twice I’d noticed a servant at one door or another and realized that someone was requesting more privacy for a short while. The one she led me toward had at least one person in there, I thought, but followed along. Kyriala stopped at the tall pipe at the buffet table and she drew a lung-full of herb along with me. I grinned at her over the green mouthpiece. “You... are being very mysterious...” I said, holding my breath as well as I could.
She didn’t answer me with anything but a smile until she’d exhaled. “Come on.”
I was glad I’d set aside most of my clothing in the pool. Even soaking wet my gloves and my kilt were almost too much in the steam. Ky, in a swimming costume that she had borrowed from one of the daughters of the house, sank up to her chin in the water. Gannara and Farasha waved at me, a tray with a bottle and four tiny glasses on the floor behind them. I stopped where I stood. Oh my. I was suddenly feeling very awkward.
“Come on in, heart’s brother.” Gan said. “We reveal to you a grand conspiracy.”
“Um,” I said intelligently, trying hard not to look at either of the girls, thankful that the water was foaming, covering up where I wanted to look most. I sank into the water myself, hissing at how warm it was and stripped off my kilt and gloves under the cover of the foam, setting them on the edge. I think I need another pipe. “Grand conspiracy?”
“Well,” Farasha said, “Gan is going to be coming with my family caravan. All the family want to meet him this summer...” she paused and Gan kept right on going...
“And we had a sort of healer’s orders from Surya before we left, so we thought this party would be a good place.”
“Um...” if this as anything like the last session I’d had with Surya then.... I wanted to run away, but I’d gotten naked without putting a towel to hand... and where were the attendant servants? And KY was here!
“Farasha and I had a talk while you two were playing ‘Drunken Idiot’,” Ky said.
Gan turned to her and said, blinking, “That game is really called that?”
Farasha poked him in the shoulder while Ky nodded approvingly, very much like they had worked together all through the campaign, but now on a personal level. “Of course it is. Why would a game involving cards, alcohol, dares and stripping off clothing be called anything else?”
I was floating now on that last couple of breaths of herb, things were rosy edged and everything was suddenly funny, especially her saying that. I snorted and they started laughing and we were all laughing suddenly and laughing and hugging. In the hot bath. Gan and I ended up with our backs to the bubbling wall and we each had a wiggling, giggling girl on our laps and our other arms wrapped around each other. For some reason that was so funny I laughed hard enough to squeeze tears out.
“Oh... this is too public,” Ky said, looking out through the steamy walls. “Anyone could walk in...” her weight on me, mitigated by the water, just lightly rubbing against me as the water moved her.... I had my one arm around her waist and suddenly I was aware that the bottom of her breast was pressed against my forearm. And her bottom... was... um... Not that I could feel anything, truly but it was as if the water there and over my groin were suddenly red hot.
“No,” Gan said. “One of the servants is sitting outside now... I paid him to guard the door for us.”
“And I dimmed the lamps,” Farasha said. “Anyone looking from outside is going to see only dimly lit steam.” Ky hesitated and then relaxed more into my arm. It felt so good. It felt like... when Gan and Fara and I slept together. But Ky... um...
“What are you all talking about?” I looked at Gan’s face and at Ky, who was smiling shyly now.
“Well. Fara and I... we...” She stopped.
I tried hard to look only at everyone’s faces. My thigh was next to Gan’s, separated only by water and bubbles. Ky’s swimming costume was so thin it might as well have been non-existant. Fara handed Ky a tiny glass of dark liquid, and one to me and one to Gan. “You boys have been kind of going slowly and the women thought we should... not speed things up, necessarily... but at least talk about what’s going on here.”
I had to take my arm from around Gan to take the glass and sipped. It was the Niah chocolate liquor, sweet as... well, as the feeling of Ky sort of floating/sitting on me, powerful as the heat pouring off a fire and made more so by the heat we were sitting in.
“Slowly? What do you mean?”
“We’re going to be a four, aren’t we? Aren’t we considering that?”
I coughed and coughed and nearly spilled the drink, but couldn’t somehow get my power of speech back. I couldn’t go anywhere without dumping Ky into the water so I was trapped. I ducked my head under water and Gan pulled me up by the top of my hair.
“Don’t be silly, Minis.”
It was so odd. In the motion of the water, and arms and legs and hair it was so unreal. It was even all right that I was getting hard. Not that I usually did in hot water but with Ky sitting on me... it um... It was hard to focus on what Fara was saying. Gan was letting her talk again.
“I... I... yes. Look,” I said. “I do want to talk about this. I do want to do this if it’s the right thing for everybody but I’m too smashed out to sayn’ything sensible...”
“Very sensible,” Gan said solemnly and we all started laughing again. Fara reached to where she had the bottle and poured our little glasses full again.
“It... goes down easily... doesn’t it?” Ky asked. “I usually only drink wine.”
“Minis, this isn’t a firm proposal of marriage or anything... just... starting to wonder if we should be working towards it and how...”
“Um.” My wits had escaped me entirely tonight. “All right. I like the idea. I liked the idea of the three of us and –“ I ducked my head underwater again, came up without being dragged. “But I didn’t know how to ask Kyriala properly. A four isn’t Arkan... This isn’t proper...”
“No, silly,” Ky said. “I expect a full and proper proposal from you when the time comes.”
“I can do that.”
“Good!” Then Fara leaned over and kissed Gan and Ky and I both watched. I could see her watching just as intently as I was. Was it possible that a girl could be just as warm seeing that as I was?
She wiggled a little against me and then looped her arm around my neck as I found my arm pulling her in a little more snugly. “Do you mind that, Ky? Shall I desist?”
“No. Don’t you dare desist!”
“Oh.” It was just so easy to cuddle... it was so nice to watch Fara put both her hands on either side of Gan’s face and hold him still to kiss him. Not that he was struggling to get away. I’d set my glass down on the edge of the hot pool and my free hand somehow found it’s way around Gan’s waist. Lower waist. Hip really. I should stop right there. We were surrounded by bubbles and I was wondering if the herb was making them pink and gold and floating up out of the water.
I opened my mouth to swallow one and it tasted like a kiss. I opened my eyes to find that Fara had leaned over and put her mouth on mine and I blinked and saw Ky looking behind, her eyes twinkling. Was that her finger in my ribs making me jump? Gan put out a finger and traced a water droplet down Ky’s cheek and stopped at a dimple... I was cold and shaking even in the hot water.
This was too much, too soon... I couldn’t do this. They were all having so much fun... I’d ruin it all... I’d taint it all. I’d, I’d... Fara kissed me again and my mind went away for a bit.
“We talked about this... Minis... We need to go slow, for you and for Gan and for Ky’s comfort,” Fara said, panting a little.
Someone’s hand was on my belly and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out if it was Ky’s or Fara’s or Gan’s in all the heat and bubbles.
“Um... yeah... um... is this right? Is this proper? I don’t want to hurt anyone...”
“Minis...” It wasn’t Ky’s hand on my belly. Her gloved finger. Her wet gloved finger. Her hot, wet, gloved finger lay across my lips, shushing me. “Shhh. I will watch.”
“Yes, Watch. And I will find out if I can, as I am, be comfortable with the idea of ...” she looked down and blushed, even in the hot water, with her hair in wet strands on her cheek and disappearing into the bubbles. “... the idea of more than one husband... and a wife...”
I swallowed hard, my mouth full of the taste of chocolate. “Oh... all... um... all... right. Let me help...”
She giggled again. “I’ll just sit over here with another glass of this.” She put one hand right on me to lift herself out, completely innocent and I froze on a yelp. It half hurt half enticed, I wasn’t sure which.
“Now, Minis,” Gan said. “I think you and I need to be careful too, because of all the shen we got taught about sex between us, so we’ll fix it when I get back. Right now...”
Fara sat up on the edge of the bath opposite Ky. She was naked as Gannara, and me too. Her skin was a lot fairer than the liquor but it looked as warm and it was wet and her hair trailed down over her beautiful breasts like coils of cocoa and butter. And between... um. Between her legs. Unpurified, but I remembered the Haian book from years ago. I couldn't think of someone cutting her there or I would make myself sick.
That spot. That part of her was not the gate of Hayel. It would not make me impure or sinful to contact with it.
Perhaps it was the drink, perhaps it was the herb. The hair between her legs looked luscious as chocolate liqueur. “May I... am I allowed...will it hurt you if I... um...” I took a deep breath. “Licked the chocolate I see there?”
She laughed and opened her legs a bit more. “I'd like that.” Gan boosted me over himself, smiling, then put his elbows up on the edge of the bath behind him as I half swam over and bumped into the wall right between Fara’s knees, Centurion Graceful. Somehow I lost my footing, scrambled, went under, came up coughing with someone pounding on my back and then my face ended up right... my cheek lay against a soft pad of wirey hair my nose pressed into one thigh.
She smelled so good. The bubble wall was running up my front as I turned my face and looked up her belly and breasts... I was hard -- I was... the head of me was just touching the slick, hot tiles of the pool, my knees on the bench weren't sore, all submerged, all being moved and touched by the rushing water.
Surely that view, up her body, must be a kind of Selestialis?... “I don’t know what to do.” I said in a small voice.
Her head was tipped forward and her hair dripped on my face. She smiled. Her one hand came up and opened herself so I could see right there. RIGHT THERE. Dark red, wet, glistening, shaped like a flower pod perhaps? The endless folds of a red rose? I... she... I... Her finger ran slowly over a junction of two folds... a nubbin of flesh. “That’s like the head of your penis, Minis.”
I leaned forward almost before she finished speaking and put my half open lips right there.