by Togi Kayako (土宜草子)
Despite the shots they’d tossed back and the perilous heels of their thigh-high boots, Martinet managed to walk in a straight line. They were riding high on a sense of accomplishment until they hit the next major street and were suddenly faced with herds of roving trick-or-treaters. Dodging sticky-fingered kids without veering off into muddy grass or the middle of the street needed more coordination than Martinet had to give.
Sure would’ve been nice if their roommate hadn’t ditched them for a booty call. Without warning them. After the last bus back to their apartment. Or if every rideshare in town didn’t want an arm and a leg to pick Martinet up — maybe before midnight if they were lucky. They would have even happily sweet-talked someone into a ride home, but nobody left at the party had been either sober or interesting enough to bother.
A few blocks more and Martinet started to wish their ringmaster costume had come with something warmer than a flimsy miniskirt, because the October air was freezing. They also would have gone for a sports bra if they’d known a long walk was coming, no matter how fucking fantastic their tits looked in the half-open tailcoat. Their favorite pushup bra was doing some serious heavy lifting, but fuck all in terms of jiggle reduction.
After hitting a traffic jam of kids walking at a crawl as they swapped candy, Martinet gave up on the direct route in favor of a quieter parallel street. The distance also filtered the normal Halloween sound of screeching children down to a tolerable level so they could finally unclench their jaw. Besides the cold and their aching feet, everything was fine for a couple of blocks until Martinet approached a walled pedestrian overpass and heard something heavy scraping across the ground.
It probably wasn’t a serial killer — not that it would be easy to tell on Halloween, given how many people were running around covered in fake blood and carrying prop weapons. Martinet dug out their tiny mace keychain and held it at the ready as they poked their head around the corner. Someone in a long, white robe was pushing a good-sized planter down the barely lit bridge. Martinet was ready to file it away under weird, but not my problem until the person used the planter as a step to get onto the narrow guardrail.
Turned out they could sprint in heels if sufficiently motivated. “Don’t do it!” Martinet yelled. The robed figure startled, but grabbed onto a support beam rather than toppling off. Martinet tucked their mace away and held up their empty hands. “Not going to hurt you or call the cops or anything. Just step back down and talk to me for a minute, okay?”
To Martinet’s immense surprise, they did, stepping delicately back down onto the walkway. As the light hit their face, Martinet stopped and outright stared. “Whoa, your costume is amazing,” Martinet said. The person had brown skin made up into a tree bark texture, and the top of their head was covered in prosthetics that looked like rows of tiny shelf mushrooms. The fungi seemed to be in place of hair, running down their neck in a gradient of autumn colors. A flower crown of withered plants was the perfect touch to the whole harvest goddess style they had going on.
Manners kicked in several alcohol-slowed moments later, and Martinet shifted their eyes away from the interesting stranger. No social rules they’d ever learned had covered talking someone down from jumping off a bridge, so they fell back on the generic script and stuck out their hand. “Hi, I’m Martinet,” they said.
Tall, Dark, and Amazingly Dressed seemed to have gotten their manners from some way more exciting source. They scooped up Martinet’s hand and bowed over it in a motion too smooth to be a Halloween-only special. They were so tall the gesture didn’t even bring their head lower than Martinet’s and wow were they too drunk to handle how hot that was. “A pleasure to meet you, Lady Martinet. Please call me Cedrise,” the stranger said.
“Not a lady,” Martinet replied on autopilot. “Uh, shit, sorry, that’s really not important right now actually. You’re clearly having a rough night and we should worry about that more than my gender.”
“My… apologies?” Cedrise had a blank look on their — or more likely her — face. “I confess I’m somewhat confused. While it is true that tonight is difficult for me, how could you possibly know that?” She didn’t quite have an accent, but something about the crisp way she said every word made her sound fancy to Martinet’s ears.
“Wait, sorry, were you not about to—?” Martinet made a vague gesture that hopefully conveyed jump off of the goddamn bridge without their having to put the actual words out there.
Cedrise followed the arc of Martinet’s hands over toward the planter, the guardrail, and into the empty air beyond. “Oh,” she said faintly. “I can see how one might assume I was attempting to harm myself, but I assure you that isn’t the case. I simply needed the vantage point. Thank you for stopping, but please feel free to continue on your way.”
It was probably the most eloquent way someone had told Martinet to fuck off. “Sure thing,” Martinet said. “Just be careful up there, okay?” Cedrise nodded with the same serious energy she brought to seemingly everything. Martinet gave her a friendly little wave, and looped back the way they’d come. Out of the corner of their eye, they noticed Cedrise was still watching them as they turned the corner.
As soon as they were out of sight, Martinet started wrestling their boots off as quietly as possible. Maybe Cedrise was an avid stargazer, or was hiding a camera somewhere under her robes and needed the height to get the perfect shot. Martinet’s gut insisted something was wrong, so they were going to stick around for a little while to keep an eye on things. Cold toes and feeling like a stalker were a fair trade off for making sure they didn’t see Cedrise’s name in an upcoming obituary.
Martinet waited until they heard the faint sound of the planter tipping that had to mean Cedrise was back on the guardrail. They ducked around the corner and stayed low, keeping to the far side of the bridge and hopefully out of Cedrise’s line of sight. She was a few steps down from the planter, staring up at the stars with one hand on the support beam and the other clenched into a fist at her side.
After a long moment, Cedrise’s shoulders slumped and she started murmuring something in a language Martinet didn’t recognize that sounded worryingly like a prayer. The second she let go of the beam, Martinet tensed up, ready to close the last few feet between them. Cedrise’s voice got more emphatic, clearly hitting the important part of whatever she was reciting, and she clapped her hands together once.
The sound bounced down the walkway, and the whole structure shuddered like it was in some localized earthquake. Martinet had to brace themself on the wall for a second as the sudden jostling made their head spin. They didn’t get a chance to recover, as Cedrise looked down and let out a heavy sigh that sounded very final. Martinet pushed themself off the wall and made it onto the planter as Cedrise stepped off the guardrail.
Martinet grabbed the hem of Cedrise’s robe, but she was heavier than she looked and had already committed to going over the edge. The result was predictable: the wall caught Martinet right above the knees and they toppled headfirst after Cedrise with a shriek.
There was nothing but darkness on the other side, the road below wiped out of existence like it had never been there. Martinet scrabbled with their free hand for anything to hang on to, but they didn’t so much as brush a solid surface with their fingertips. The pale glow of a streetlight in the distance was the last thing they saw before the void closed in overhead and left them tumbling into total nothingness.
It felt like falling in a dream. Martinet knew they were going down, but in an abstract way, disconnected from any physical sensations. There was enough wind to flutter the tails of their jacket, but it wasn’t any colder than walking down the street had been. By a similar Alice-in-Wonderland-style logic, Martinet landed light as a feather on a patch of soft moss. It was even less of an impact than most of the times they’d dropped to their knees on purpose.
They got maybe two seconds to take in a cozy campfire off to one side and a whole lot of bare trees ringing in the area before a hand clamped onto the back of their head and shoved them face-first into the dirt. “If you value your sight, stay down and keep your eyes closed until I tell you otherwise,” Cedrise hissed. Her hand felt like actual tree bark, the slight ridges rough against Martinet’s skin through the thin layer of their buzzcut.
Martinet hung in a horrible limbo where their body couldn’t decide if it wanted to freak out, puke, or both. Keeping their eyes closed helped either way, and given Cedrise’s threat slash warning, Martinet had no intention of doing anything else. Their evening had gone sideways in every sense. Until they figured out what the fuck was going on, deferring to the person who had a plan was the smartest option.
A weird internal pressure started building up, like they were suddenly in a plane mid-takeoff. All of Martinet’s bare skin prickled with goosebumps despite the fire nearby. They tried to take in some slow, deep breaths, but the air coated their throat with a gross, bitter flavor. Martinet swallowed several times to clear the taste, and their ears finally popped.
Cedrise drew in one tiny, sharp breath and her hand pressed harder against Martinet’s head. Three sharp raps of metal on stone rang out. The sounds weren’t loud, but Martinet felt each one clear down to their bones like they were kneeling on top of some giant speaker. When the echoes faded away, Cedrise lifted her hand and whispered, “You may open your eyes now, if you wish.”
Martinet did, carefully. The shifting firelight wasn’t too harsh on their eyes, but what they were seeing threw them for a loop. Where there had been empty ground in front of them, there was now a round platform with several steps of black, polished stone, fading smoothly into the shadows at the edge of the light. In the center was a red armchair with a tall back. It had some fancy looking gold trim, but was otherwise weirdly normal given the setting.
The figure sitting in the chair was also a normal, if very hot woman at first glance. She was broad-shouldered, wearing a navy blue suit, a white shirt buttoned all the way up, and a perfectly knotted gray tie. The massive silver scepter in her left hand was definitely a bit out of place, and the design on top looked like nothing so much as a tangle of weird snakes. Light seemed to bend oddly around the woman, leaving her head and torso visible while her feet faded away into the shadows, never mind that they were closest to the fire. She was looking them both over casually with a faint smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
Cedrise was still kneeling at Martinet’s side, but stretched up taut with her back rigidly straight and her deep brown eyes locked on the woman in the chair. The woman pointed at Cedrise, then Martinet, and held up two fingers with a questioning tilt of her head.
“They accidentally joined me when I was crossing over,” Cedrise said. “I am the only one here to bargain on behalf of my people and I am prepared to begin as soon as you send them back.” Martinet was no expert on the body language of tree people, but Cedrise clearly wanted to broadcast how very, very calm she was. Her hands were flattened on her lap and she was eerily still. Even her voice was almost a monotone.
The woman’s smile ticked up on one side, and she slowly shook her head. Cedrise said something that sounded very much like a swear word, though half of it was drowned out by the woman hitting her scepter on the dais again. The noise should have come from the metal, but instead it made the ground ring like a giant bell.
Martinet flinched as the vibration passed under them in a wave. Everything went wobbly and distorted, like they were suddenly viewing the world through a thin layer of cherry Jell-O. Martinet blinked a few times and things went mostly back to normal except for one addition. There was a delicate round end table at the foot of the dais now, with a massive set of old-timey scales on top.
Everything about the scales looked impossible. The curved metal plate on each side was big enough to use as a seat, but held up with tiny, delicate chains smaller than ninety percent of Martinet’s own necklaces. The central column looked like an ornate candlestick, but supported a thick crossbar so wide that Martinet didn’t think they could touch both ends at the same time.
“What is even going on right now?” Martinet asked. “I swear I was not this fucking drunk before I fell off a bridge.” They glanced between the woman in the chair, who still hadn’t said anything, and Cedrise. “Can you guys give me literally anything to work with here? Some cryptic hints if not an actual explanation?”
Cedrise held up a hand toward Martinet without even glancing their way. “Give me a few moments, please, and then I will do my best to explain,” she said. “First, I have a duty I must fulfill.”
“Yeah, okay, not like I have anywhere to be.” Martinet rolled their eyes and tucked their legs to one side to get a bit more comfortable. If Cedrise registered the sarcasm, she was doing a great job of not showing it.
Cedrise got up to take three whole steps to the table with the scales, then sank back down on her knees with her hands folded in front of herself. “I come on behalf of my people. By the oath made with your former Bride, I invoke my right to bargain. Should I please you, I will become your new Bride. I will swear my life to you, and return each year until my dying breath.” Cedrise spit out a long collection of syllables Martinet had zero hope of remembering and followed with, “Will you hear my requests?”
So that was presumably the name of the woman in the chair. Martinet hung on to the first few syllables, because there was no fucking way they could handle the whole thing without a good night’s sleep and maybe a couple days’ practice. Azvari seemed manageable enough. Wouldn’t do to mangle someone’s name when they were apparently getting married — not that anyone involved looked like they wanted to be congratulated.
Azvari was frowning as she nodded and gestured with one hand for Cedrise to continue. “I request the health of our home tree and all living amongst its boughs for the coming year,” Cedrise said. When she stopped speaking, Azvari snapped their fingers and a weight about the size and shape of a large salt shaker appeared on the left side of the scale. Black letters spiraled around the silver metal. Martinet could only see a few on the side closest to them, but it was clearly the exact words Cedrise had said.
There was too much going on for Martinet to make sense of, so they kicked back and pretended they were watching some weird fantasy movie. It was possible everything was some kind of pre-death hallucination their brain was putting together as they fell off a bridge. The thought wasn’t comforting, but it was more manageable than accepting all of the baffling shit that was going on in front of them as real.
“I request that our home be kept separate and safe from the human world, save for those born or invited there, for the coming year.” The second weight was about the same size as the first, and Cedrise’s shoulders relaxed a little. More weight was presumably bad, though Martinet had no idea what Cedrise was planning to offer in return.
“I request the space, energy, and anything else necessary for a new life to grow in our home next spring,” Cedrise continued. Azvari tipped her head side to side a few times, like a little loading animation before she snapped another weight into existence. It was barely a quarter of the size of the other two.
“My final requests,” Cedrise said slowly, “are for the safe return of myself and my companion to our homes after our bargain is completed, and for you to remain bound in this space until a year and a day has passed.” There was a long pause after her request, and then a linked pair of weights dropped onto the scale and made it ring like a gong. The pair was lopsided, half too small for Martinet to read. Process of elimination made it an easy guess, though — the large side was twice as big as any of the other weights and had the whole binding bit in huge letters.
The left side of the scale hung maybe an inch off the ground. Cedrise stared at it for a long moment, then bowed her head without another word. Azvari turned their attention toward Martinet and they hurried to put their hands up and shake their head. “I’m good, thanks,” they said. “No requests here.” With nothing else to go on, they fell back on the standard rule: If you have to ask how much something costs, you can’t afford it.
Azvari nodded and smacked their fancy staff against the ground again. This time, Martinet shut their eyes before the world went weird and only opened them once the last vibrations were totally gone. Two small weights had been added to the right side of the scale, enough to balance out one of Cedrise’s first requests. The first was labeled A human, which Martinet assumed meant they were the only one in the room and/or nightmare dimension. The second was a fraction of the size of the first, and labeled only Previous balance. Something told Martinet they didn’t want to ask for details.
The major change was the addition of mismatched furniture abso-fucking-lutely everywhere, stretching off into the darkness as far as Martinet could see. There were tall bookcases, tiny pedestals, dining tables draped with tablecloths, glass-fronted cabinets like someone’s grandma would put the nice dishes in, and even a few chairs and stools. Every single flat surface had at least one weight on it, each made of the same metal in all different shapes and sizes. From the few close enough for Martinet to read, no two had the same label.
“Okay, seriously, what the fuck is going on?” Martinet said. “I know you bargained for us to go home after, but I’m seeing some very not survivable stuff out there.” They gestured toward a weight big enough to scare off anyone who wasn’t a gym rat, which had only two words on it: My heart.
“That was probably a previous Bride’s final bargain,” Cedrise said. “Most choose to end their lives here when their time comes. It’s simpler, and today is already a mourning day for most.” She got to her feet and fussily picked at the pieces of moss stuck to her robe. “Anyway, it’s not limited to things someone has chosen before. Anything you can think of to offer, you will be able to find a weight for.”
Martinet got up and padded around in their stocking feet to check out some of the nearest furniture. Most of the largest weights were labeled with fatal options: various internal organs, decapitation, and even plain old death with no elaboration. One huge weight tucked under a stool was covered in what had to be several paragraphs worth of text, too tiny for Martinet to read from where they were standing. They looked at it for two seconds, then walked on without any temptation to find out what it said.
“So do you have, like… a plan?” Martinet asked idly. “You knew you were coming here, right? I assume you’ve thought about what you wanted to do to balance the scales, or got pointers from the last person who had the job or something?” They hoped a specific question might get something a little more coherent out of Cedrise, instead of more confusing but deeply ominous statements.
“The last person told me nothing,” Cedrise snapped. Martinet stopped browsing the nightmare fuel and glanced back, but Cedrise wouldn’t meet their eyes. “My apologies,” Cedrise murmured. “I have a great deal of anger toward him still — he chose me for the role out of spite, knowing I was particularly unsuited to it.”
“Right, gotcha,” Martinet said slowly. “Sorry. Don’t mind me if I’m too nosy, I’m still a little drunk and a lot lost. Wasn’t expecting to wind up in the spooky forest dimension tonight, go figure.” It was creepy, too. All the weights were evenly lit enough to be readable, but the endless stretch of trees faded into shadows in every direction. Also, there was no sky. Martinet didn’t know how they could tell it wasn’t just a lack of stars, but they could.
To distract themself, Martinet started considering less dire options than what they’d seen so far. The spooky goddess probably didn’t take cash or card, but what about tangible stuff like clothes? Martinet stifled a laugh at the idea of turning it into the highest stakes game of strip poker they could imagine. At least losing some clothing would be harmless, even if it probably wasn’t worth much.
Martinet paused in front of something very like a convenience store magazine rack when they felt a faint tug on their left hand, like holding a magnet near something metal. They followed the pull and their hand bumped into a tiny weight on the top shelf, no bigger around than their index finger. The label read Remove a piece of clothing. Looked like Cedrise had meant the ‘anything you can think of’ part literally.
With an amused snort, Martinet scooped it up and brought it back to the scales. They took a second to waggle their eyebrows at Azvari and got a very dirty wink in return. At least someone had a sense of humor about all the weird bullshit happening. “Here, I’m helping,” Martinet said brightly. They tossed the weight onto the mostly empty side, where it landed with a very satisfying little ding but no visible change to the balance. “So do I have to do it immediately, or do we choose everything and then get started, or…?”
Cedrise looked especially tree-like when she was frozen in shock, and then surprisingly intimidating as she stormed over to read the weight. “What have you done?” She turned from the scales to Azvari and asked, “If the wording is left unspecified, does it only apply to the person who placed it on the scale?”
Azvari shook her head, with another downright sadistic smile. “Shit, sorry about that,” Martinet said. They reached for the weight, it didn’t budge. Martinet leaned in for a closer look and found the weight had visibly fused into the scale, leaving not even a hairline crack that they might have wedged a nail into.
“If something is placed on the scale, it is immediately binding,” Cedrise said. She was stretched to her full height, towering over them with a cold expression. Under better circumstances, Martinet would be very into it — they weren’t not into it as things stood, but they kept that thought well away from their dumb, drunk mouth.
“Sorry, again,” Martinet said with a wince. “I won’t put anything else on until we agree first, promise.”
“See that you don’t,” Cedrise said. She settled down by inches, taking a step or two back and smoothing out her robe while pointedly not looking at Martinet. “As for the timing, it’s irrelevant unless specified. Anything we place on the scales must be completed before”—Cedrise rattled off the confusing mess of syllables that was Azvari’s full name again—”fulfills its side of the bargain, which means we can’t leave until we’ve at least reached a balance.”
Martinet nodded along, because that made sense, assuming they glossed over the impossible dimension and goddess. If Azvari was a goddess. Cedrise had said it, but Martinet wasn’t sure if that was accurate or spiteful and they weren’t about to ask now. Martinet gave Azvari another once-over and frowned. Her tie had changed colors from gray to lavender, while her suit had faded to a true black. The changes were subtle enough they would have written it off as a trick of the light, but they’d taken a good look earlier.
“Hey, so weird question, did Azvari’s clothes change color or am I losing it?” Martinet asked. Azvari continued with the weird mix of silent but expressive; her who, innocent little me? gesture was flawless.
“Azvari, really?” Martinet shrugged and hunched forward a little under Cedrise’s visible disapproval. “As you like, I suppose. ‘Azvari’s’ form is infinitely mutable.” Cedrise made the idea sound gross rather than objectively awesome. Martinet was starting to get the feeling she was a teensy bit of a buzzkill. “The humanoid form is only one tiny piece of the whole — everything in this dimension, save for ourselves and what we brought in, is Azvari.”
Martinet stayed quiet as they digested that new bite of weirdness. Their brain ping-ponged around to a dozen different questions, most of which they were sure they didn’t want the answers to. Would knowing the ground could feel them walking on it make this situation better? No, no it would not.
With the worst of their curiosity safely tamped down, Martinet was left with only one real conversational option. “Okay, so how do we want to do this? Set some hard limits of stuff we absolutely won’t do, then try to find common ground? What makes something a bigger or smaller weight, anyway?”
“From the records I’ve read, it seems to be almost entirely up to Azvari’s whims.” Cedrise sounded sour again, but this time Martinet couldn’t totally fault her for it. She’d basically gotten dumped into a new job with no training. “As to the rest… I need a few moments to consider. Having a second party present rather complicates some of my plans.”
“It’s not like I could tell anyone about this,” Martinet pointed out. “Besides, I’m not here to kinkshame if you were gonna fuck the bargain goddess. I mean, hell, I would. At least the human part. Not sure I want to make out with a bookshelf, but hey, try anything once, right?” Cedrise looked increasingly horrified with every word, and Martinet’s shoulder devil convinced them to stroll over and press a kiss to a nearby shelf.
Martinet’s vision started to gray and they dropped to the ground in case they were going to pass out. Cedrise yelled something, maybe — Martinet’s ears were ringing too loudly to tell. Tears streamed down their face like they’d chopped a hundred onions back to back. Everything was horrible and wobbly, even worse than before. Martinet wasn’t totally sure where their body was in relation to itself, but muscle memory got a hand to their nose and their fingers came away smudged with blood.
It took at least a few minutes for Martinet to push themself up off the ground. Cedrise was standing, barely, with both hands braced on her knees for support. “Okay,” Martinet said faintly, “I think I’m starting to get why you seem kinda stressed out.”
Cedrise let out an undignified snort and heaved herself back up to her full height. “Assuming neither of us are permanently damaged, that lapse will actually be to our benefit.” She turned toward Azvari, who gave them both a rather apologetic tip of her head. With a quick snap, a weight appeared on what Martinet had started to consider ‘their’ side of the scale. It read Unintentional pain. While small, it was enough weight for Martinet to catch a slight shift in the balance.
“So Azvari isn’t out to hurt us for no reason?” Martinet still couldn’t wrap their head around the whole picture, so they went with the closest thing they had to familiar ground. “So this is like a really high-stakes kink negotiation, basically. We just need to find some things Azvari wants that work for both of us. Totally doable.” Not a sentiment that was going to win any awards for convincing, but Martinet tried to believe it as hard as they could.
Cedrise hummed almost agreeably, though her mouth looked like she’d bitten into a whole lemon. Martinet got briefly distracted by wondering if veganism counted as cannibalism if you were a plant, and only tuned back in when Cedrise pointedly cleared her throat. “If you’re comfortable with it, I would appreciate you giving me an overview of what sort of acts you might be willing to do.”
“We are talking sex acts, right? Like I’m guessing you’re not worried I’d dig my heels in over reading Azvari a bedtime story or anything.” Martinet used both hands to gesture over the very brief length of their costume. “Spoiler alert, I’m definitely on board with sexy stuff.”
To Martinet’s surprise and delight, when Cedrise looked them over, her eyes stalled out briefly on Martinet’s amped-up cleavage. “I suppose I could have reasonably come to that conclusion,” she said. There was something almost like a smile on her face for the first time all evening. “Yes, I did generally mean sexual acts, though you’re welcome to suggest anything you can think of. Offers of a physical nature seem to be valued more highly, at least according to all the previous Brides whose accounts I have read.”
“I mean, if I could only fuck once a year, I’d try to get as much out of that day as possible. Wouldn’t you?” Martinet shrugged and shot Azvari a sympathetic glance. Deity or not, she clearly had feelings and preferences as much as anyone else.
Cedrise was staring at the ground again, but she still looked a bit more at ease. Martinet jotted it down as a victory. “Not an angle I had ever considered the situation from, though I suppose that makes a certain kind of sense if you assume it wants anything other than to cause suffering.”
“There’s something we could maybe toss on the scales,” Martinet said. “How about you stop calling Azvari it like some kind of inanimate object that you also hate? I mean, unless that’s what you want to be called?” Martinet glanced up at Azvari, who tipped her head side to side noncommittally and gestured out to the shelves.
Martinet held out one hand and let the faint pull of their idea guide them toward the right weight. They got to a long table and started scanning down it when Cedrise let out the sort of heavy sigh that demanded attention. “I understand that you can’t comprehend the scope of my people’s history immediately, but you must realize that Azvari is not a person by now. The only relationship I will have with it is transactional — it’s not as if we’ll ever become friends.”
“And yet, I think you might wanna consider playing nice.” Martinet held out the weight they’d picked up, reading Speak politely to Azvari. It was about a third of the size of the first requests Cedrise had made, which wasn’t bad for something that in Martinet’s opinion should have been given for free. “I know you don’t want to, but this is less intrusive than a lot of options, right?”
“You have an excellent point there.” Cedrise shrugged and gestured toward the scale with one hand. “Go ahead and put it on the scale, and then we can discuss how to proceed.” She drifted off through the shelves with one hand out. Martinet had no idea what she could be looking for, since they hadn’t agreed on anything else, but at least it kept the grumpy lady busy.
Martinet placed the weight, which was unfortunately too small to make a visible shift. “So I’m guessing you can’t speak, or I guess not without messing us up, but if there’s anything you really want from us that you can gesture, I’ll hear you out.” They kept their voice down and flicked their eyes over to where Cedrise had vanished into the Weird Bargains Ikea.
Azvari shrugged one shoulder and leaned back as casual as could be. She crossed one leg over the other, and Martinet looked away from the impossible way both of her feet were still shadowed. Light shouldn’t be doing what it was doing around Azvari. “Alrighty, keep your secrets or whatever,” Martinet said. Their pout, no matter how great it made their lips look, probably wasn’t going to sway the scary bargain goddess, but they tried anyway. “Can you at least let me know if you think I’m pretty?”
It was normal to feel something when someone looked at you really hard, right? Martinet assured themself it was as Azvari scanned them from head to toe and back up again in the most slow, thorough eye-fucking they’d ever had in their life. It didn’t quite feel like a touch, but it wasn’t far off. Azvari’s eyes also paused on their cleavage and Martinet felt the kind of pride most people saved for finishing college or their firstborn children or something.
Azvari’s slow, approving nod left Martinet warm all over. They were definitely still drunk, but in the good way where their brain was willing to overlook the total weirdness of everything in favor of being horny. “So I’m guessing tit-fucking could be a strong option,” they said.
Behind them, Cedrise made a choked noise, followed by the sound of metal dinging on metal, followed by some good old fashioned cuss words. Martinet watched Azvari’s smile get wider and caught a hint of way too many teeth. Not even the nice buzz they had going was enough to prevent the sinking feeling in their gut. “What’d you drop on the scale?” they asked.
“Only undressing each other, mercifully.” It was the least excited anyone had ever been about taking off Martinent’s clothes — Cedrise was back to sounding like there was a stick up her ass. Which on second thought was a stupid phrase to use, since Cedrise seemed to be made of wood. Maybe her ass was the stick up her ass, so she could never really get it out.
Martinet stuffed one fist against their mouth to help hold back the giggles that they really, really could not let escape. Azvari could see their face, but hey, she wasn’t going to say anything about it. “Yeah, that’s fine. What else did you pick up?” They wandered away toward a random bookshelf and pretended to scan it. “Oh, and hey — how do you feel about tit-fucking?”
Cedrise sputtered. After a couple false starts, she managed to say, “My species does not nurse its young and as such, we do not have… breasts.” Despite the objectively hilarious phrasing, Martinet kept it together until they turned and saw Cedrise’s sour expression. Maybe, if they had been sober, they would have realized Cedrise had almost hit her snapping point.
Instead, Martinet broke out laughing. They got a full five seconds before Cedrise spun them around, slammed them against the shelf — with one hand — and knocked the air out of them. The only mercy was that no air also meant no moaning about being manhandled.
“How wonderful it must be to find this funny,”Cedrise hissed. “The future of my people for the coming year hangs in the balance, the price to be paid with my body. This is the worst night of my life and you want to laugh about it.” Over Cedrise’s shoulder, Martinet could see Azvari watching the scene, though they couldn’t read her expression.
“I’m sorry,” Martinet croaked. Cedrise looked unimpressed, but she didn’t start yelling again. Martinet took a minute to catch her breath and scrambled to form a better apology. “I’m not laughing at you. Not really. I’m still drunk and trying not to freak out about all this. If there’s some way I can do most of the, uh, price-paying, just say the word and I totally will.”
Cedrise narrowed her eyes. “Maybe you should,” she said slowly. Her fingers curled tighter around Martinet’s shoulder. “I could easily find phrasing that would work. Even something simple would do, such as me holding you down while Azvari used your body. I wonder how much that would tip the scales.”
It was a threat, or at least probably it was meant to be a threat, but Martinet’s dumb, drunk brain did not care. A little moan slipped out faster than they could slap a hand over their mouth. Cedrise stared at them long enough that Martinet’s tiny, withered sense of shame made an appearance and they had to look away.
“You genuinely enjoy the thought of that?” Cedrise sounded baffled, but at least fifty percent less mad than she had been.
Martinet risked meeting her eyes again and nodded. “I meant what I said. Like, I know I’m making this harder for you just by being here.” They tried to shrug on instinct, but it only made Cedrise’s fingers dig in harder in a way they were enjoying a little too much. “Also I’m kind of a slut, so… yeah.”
“Stay right here for a moment,” Cedrise said. Her face was blank, but there was a slight warmth in her tone that had one little curl of hope sprouting in Martinet’s heart. Cedrise gave them a little push against the shelf as if to stick them in place and walked off.
Azvari snapped her fingers and Martinet’s attention jumped to her. She mimed very delicate applause, which was at odds with the dark, intent way she was staring Martinet down. Her eyes were strange. Martinet couldn’t tell what color they were, but her pupils were impossibly dark and… deep? A tiny spark of light glinted somewhere far away in Azvari’s left eye, and Martinet knew in their bones that it was a distant, twinkling star.
Cedrise’s return with an armful of weights was a relief. She dumped most of them on a nearby table, then brought one small weight over to Martinet. The text on it was so small that they couldn’t read it even when Cedrise was standing in front of them. “To summarize,” she said, “I will bring you a weight, you will read it aloud, and if it is something you are willing to do, you will place it on the scale and we will do it. Is this acceptable to you?”
One lone corner of Martinet’s brain admired the elegance of having a built-in way to call it quits after any round. The vast majority of their mind was ablaze from the authoritative snap of Cedrise’s voice and the increased likelihood of them ending the night utterly wrecked in the best way possible.
“Fuck yes,” they said, already holding out a hand for the weight. Cedrise hesitated, scanning Martinet’s face like they might somehow be lying. Martinet went with their tried and true option: abandon all dignity, in a sexy way. “Cedrise, I want to do this. Azvari’s hot, if scary, and you’ve only gotten hotter now that you’re being all strong and intimidating.” They waited a beat for the information to sink in and then asked as sweetly as they knew how, “Please give me the weight?”
Cedrise passed it over without another objection and Martinet hurried to toss it on the scales. There was no visible change in the balance, but as soon as it landed, Azvari leaned forward with a hungry smile on her face. Martinet smiled back. The existence of goddesses, tree people, and spooky bargain dimensions? Not their problem now. All they had to do was read and get railed, and they were already an expert at half of those things.
When Martinet turned back around, Cedrise already had a weight held out for them. “‘I will be undressed, touched by Cedrise, and shown off to Azvari,'” Martinet read. They placed it on the scale, then asked, “Where would you like me to stand?”
“Right at the foot of the dais, I believe.” Cedrise guided them into position as she spoke, and Martinet went easily. They liked topping as often as not, but the more stressed they got, the better letting someone else take control sounded. Tonight was no exception, and it had been nuts.
The armchair Azvari had been sitting in was now an imposing throne of dark wood, shot through with curls of dense silver that shifted in the firelight. One twined up around the back of the throne and Martinet realized it was the strange maybe-snakes that had been on her scepter. It arched out of the wood and settled across Azvari’s forehead like a crown, lending her an extra air of authority she in no way needed.
Martinet expected Cedrise to ask them if they were sure again, ask how to get their costume off, something. Instead, she stepped up behind Martinet and wrapped one arm tight around their waist. “I feel as if I ought to take my time, but they have so little clothing it seems an impossibility,” Cedrise said. Azvari looked over Martinet again and nodded at Cedrise with a look of feigned disappointment. “I will have to do my best, I suppose.”
The play acting was so excessive that Martinet would have started laughing, except Cedrise’s free hand slid right down their cleavage. It was cooler than Martinet’s skin and the ridges along her fingertips were rough enough to be the best kind of exciting. Martinet arched into the touch with a happy sigh and let their brain drift further out of focus. Cedrise pulled her hand free, then yanked the ringmaster coat and Martinet’s bra down together with one sharp tug that audibly popped some seams.
Martinet was still plenty aware enough to feel embarrassed as their tits bounced free. Cedrise held their arms down when they tried to cover themself, leaving Martinet with nothing to do but bite their lip and squirm. Azvari mimed whistling and gestured near their chest with both hands in what Martinet translated to holy shit, they’re huge.
Cedrise laughed, a soft little puff of sound next to Martinet’s ear. And yeah, Martinet could hear some of that was tension leaving her body, but they heard some genuine positive emotion too. “It— she is right, you know,” Cedrise said. “Even by the standards of humans, these are quite excessive.”
“And how many humans have you even known?” Martinet asked. They had to sass, because otherwise they were going to start begging and they didn’t even have all their clothes off yet.
The question got them another laugh, low and smug. “I have known quite a few in my time.” Cedrise curled one hand gently down the side of Martinet’s chest and stroked the ridges of her thumb teasingly close to their nipple. “My people are not immortal, but I am far, far older than you.” Martinet tried to wiggle into Cedrise’s hand, but she simply pulled it away.
“So you’re secretly a sex god, gotcha,” Martinet muttered. “How did I think were you no fun?” They were getting new context for Cedrise’s serious, bossy nature, and they were more on board with it every minute. Cedrise alone would have been a treat, but there was also Azvari, watching with her terrifying deep-space eyes and a smile that promised an unforgettable night.
“I was in a rather less pleasant mood when I thought I would be forced to submit myself to— Azvari.” Cedrise sighed faintly and stepped around Martinet to address Azvari directly. “Please understand I mean you no slight, Lady Azvari. From the information given by my predecessors, most of the acts you prefer are simply ones that I do not.”
Azvari tipped her head to one side, contemplating for a long moment before giving Cedrise a polite nod. Martinet saw Cedrise’s shoulders relax as she turned to face them again. She brushed her knuckles over the top of Martinet’s tits with a pleased hum. “On the other hand, I have a suspicion that you will enjoy Lady Azvari’s attentions immensely. Won’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Martinet said. The honorific came out on instinct, but they immediately thought of a better option. “Or should it be yes, my lady?”
Cedrise nodded and stroked a hand over the short buzz of Martinet’s hair. “That will do perfectly for both myself and Azvari, I believe.” Martinet glanced up and sure enough, Azvari nodded her approval. “And how should we address you, hmm?” Cedrise slid her hands down as she spoke and eased them up under Martinet’s costume.
“Nothing like girl or boy, please.” Martinet lifted their arms and stayed still as Cedrise wrestled everything from the waist up and off. “But otherwise, whatever.” Cedrise tossed their clothes aside and Martinet crossed their wrists over their head. If they were going to be naked, they might as well put on a show. “You don’t even have to be like… nice about it, if you don’t want to.”
Cedrise and Azvari grinned in unison at Martinet’s words and their gonna get laid good sensor shot off the charts. “A sweet little plaything, then,” Cedrise said. She strolled behind Martinet, running one hand up their bare arm and wrapping it tight around their wrists. “My remarkably willing sacrifice.”
Much fancier than Martinet’s partners usually went for, but in Cedrise’s serious tone, it was doing a lot for them. As Cedrise started in on the tiny button and zipper of their miniskirt, Martinet’s eyes inevitably drifted back to Azvari. She was twirling a dark curl of either hair or shadows around one finger and raised an eyebrow when she saw Martinet looking. “Just checking, it’s not like a sacrifice sacrifice, right?” Martinet asked faintly. “You’re not going to drink my blood or eat my spleen or anything?”
Azvari looked like she was struggling not to laugh again as she shook her head. “She will do nothing you do not agree to,” Cedrise said. “I suspect she would not be opposed if you did wish to offer up flesh or blood, but I suspect she is equally happy to make use of your body. Especially given your enthusiasm for the proceedings.”
Martinet melted at both the words and the firm nod of agreement from Azvari. “Okay, that’s hot actually,”they said. They were down to just fishnets and a thong now, the latter soaked because they were feeling very good. When Cedrise went for the waistband of their stockings, Martinet caught her hands. “Hey, you’re pretty strong, right? Strong enough to, say, rip these right off of me?”
Cedrise’s pupils blew wide like a cat’s and she hooked her fingers around the scanty bits of fabric Martinet still had on. With one decisive rip, she tore the thong in half and tossed the pieces aside. The fishnets took a few tears as Cedrise had to snap the strands all the way down Martinet’s legs. Martinet did their part by staying on their feet and breathing the whole time.
“You’re rather enjoying this, aren’t you?” Cedrise trailed one bark-rough fingertip up to the top of Martinet’s thighs where they were already slick. They got wet quick and easy if someone so much as breathed on them, so it was no surprise that tonight’s wild ride had left them soaked.
“Yes, my lady,” Martinet said. They shifted their legs wider as subtly as they could. The knowing way Cedrise smiled up at them suggested it wasn’t that subtle. She got to her feet and only brushed one hand along Martinet’s bare hip along the way, to their immense frustration.
Cedrise stepped behind Martinet again, this time pressed close enough to make Martinet really feel the height difference between them. She guided Martinet into a slow turn in front of Azvari. “I trust that you find this human a pleasing choice of consort for tonight, Lady Azvari?”
Martinet finished their spin in time to see that yes, Azvari was totally happy with them. She was leaned forward with one elbow braced on her knee and looked a lot like she was ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. The intensity made Martinet shiver, but when Cedrise held another weight out, Martinet started reading before they even had a grip on the metal. “‘Cedrise and Azvari will kiss me.'” They tossed the weight onto the scale and turned their face up to Cedrise.
Her lips were softer than Martinet expected, though firmer than any human they’d kissed. Cedrise tipped their head back, cradling it with one hand as she kissed Martinet deeper and deeper. The underside of her tongue had a texture like dense mushroom gills and she tasted faintly earthy, almost like turmeric. Cedrise kept kissing them until Martinet felt pliant as clay in her hands.
Martinet made a little noise of protest when Cedrise stopped, but went eagerly when she started herding them up the steps to Azvari’s throne. “Where would you like me, my lady?” they asked. Azvari patted their lap with one hand and Martinet climbed up with a smile. Azvari was definitely taller now, big enough that straddling her legs was a pleasant stretch and Martinet had to look up to see her face. The fabric of Azvari’s suit had lightened to a dove gray, and it was soft enough that they didn’t hesitate to press in close.
Cedrise spread a hand between their shoulders as a support, and then Azvari kissed them. The first press of her lips was delicate and almost chaste. When Martinet tried to tip their head and deepen the kiss, Azvari caught their chin and pulled back to shake her head at them. “Sorry, my lady,” Martinet murmured.
Azvari took her time, teasing Martinet with tiny kisses at the corner of their lips and even one right on the end of their nose. Then she pulled back again and grinned wider than she had all night. Not only did she have sharp teeth, she had too many and they were all different. Martinet saw some that looked very shark-like and flinched, but they were well and truly trapped between Cedrise and Azvari’s hands on them.
However sharp her teeth were, Azvari didn’t even graze Martinet with one as she kissed them again. When Azvari’s tongue brushed their lips, Martinet immediately opened up to let it in. It felt perfectly normal until a second, different tongue curled in next to the first. Martinet’s mouth stretched wider as a third and fourth slid in together, a warm one that bent up behind their top teeth and an ice cold one that pressed deep enough to brush the edge of their gag reflex.
Martinet whimpered and clutched at Azvari’s shoulders. The shape of them shifted under their hands, getting wider in unison with the hand on their face extended far enough for Azvari’s fingers to hook behind Martinet’s jaw. They teetered on the edge between fear and arousal until Azvari rolled her hips up and pressed a line of writhing something right up to Martinet’s clit. Martinet ground down and moaned around the tangled mass of tongues in their mouth.
“You’re doing so well,” Cedrise said next to their ear. “I thought you might need to ease into this, but look at how sweetly you take her.” She brushed one finger at the corner of Martinet’s mouth where it was stretched tight. “Such a gorgeous little human toy. Shall we let her use the rest of your body next?”
Martinet’s hands clamped down hard enough on Azvari’s shoulders that it probably would have hurt an ordinary woman. Azvari rolled one long tongue far enough into Martinet’s throat to make them gag briefly and then retracted all of them at once, leaving their mouth hanging wide. “Please,” Martinet choked out. They slumped forward, hiding their face against Azvari’s shoulder as they struggled to catch their breath.
Cedrise removed her hand, but Azvari wrapped an arm around Martinet’s back to fill the gap. She cradled them close, almost tender as more arms and hands stroked Martinet’s side, back, and head all at the same time. Every time Martinet started to think they could catch their breath, one of Azvari’s hands would find a sensitive spot and tease another moan out of them.
Azvari finally turned them around so they could watch Cedrise climb the steps with a large weight in hand. Martinet eased out of Azvari’s lap onto wobbly legs and looked at what Cedrise had brought them. They read it over and then said, “Okay, I don’t think I can put that on the scale, actually.”
“Of course,” Cedrise said. “Would you like me to find something different, or do you wish to stop?” She started to turn away, but Martinet managed to catch the edge of her robe.
“No, I mean it’s too heavy,” Martinet said. They ran a nail over the deeply embossed words and let out a tiny, disbelieving laugh. “‘Azvari will, without harming me, fuck my mouth, cunt, and ass while Cedrise holds me,'” they read. “It counts as me putting it on the scale as long as I have a hand on it, right?”
Cedrise was staring at them blankly, so Martinet glanced back to check with Azvari and got a decisive nod. “You are a remarkable person,” Cedrise said. Her voice was low, somewhere between awed and hungry. “That you are willing at all is miraculous, and yet I almost want—” She cut herself off with a shake of her head, but Martinet knew the start of something good when they heard it.
They curled one hand over Cedrise’s on the edge of the weight. “Please tell me what you want, my lady?” Fluttering their eyelashes and leaning forward to brush their chest against Cedrise’s other hand was probably excessive, but Martinet had long since given up on boring things like dignity and restraint.
“I want you to be unable to take your pleasure while Azvari fucks you,” Cedrise said. It was the first profanity Martinet had heard from them, and that made the word sound filthier than they would have thought possible. “And after she is finished, I want her to hold you while you beg for that pleasure and I give it to you.”
All the breath left Martinet’s body in the most shameless, needy whine of their life. They’d met people that liked to wait or make them wait, but none of them had said it with the deep, growling need they could hear in Cedrise’s voice. Before Martinet could summon words, there was a soft double thump as a linked set of weights dropped to the ground next to the scale. Together they were bigger than the one Cedrise was holding, and Martinet didn’t have to read either one to know what they said.
“Just one question,” they said slowly. “You’re going to stop me from getting off with magic, right? Because there is no way I have the self control to do it myself.” They glanced back and Azvari nodded with the meanest, sharpest smile Martinet had ever seen. Behind them, Cedrise made an inarticulate noise of wanting so intense it almost sounded like pain.
Martinet closed their eyes and took a long, slow breath. “Right, we’re doing this,” they said. “Help me get those on the scale.” Cedrise’s hands shook for a moment before she grabbed the new weights, but she lifted them with no trouble and let Martinet guide them over to rest on the scale. Martinet nodded and Cedrise let the weights drop.
The sides settled into balance with a musical chime and Cedrise’s breath caught softly. Martinet boggled at the scale. Apparently fucking them stupid was worth almost as much as keeping Azvari locked away for a year, and wasn’t that an ego boost? They snapped back to attention when Cedrise caught their hands and bowed deeply over them.
“Martinet, I owe you a great debt,” Cedrise said. Her brown eyes were so wide and so soft as she gazed down at Martinet that they had to look away. “If there is anything in my power that you require in the coming year, you need only ask.”
“It’s not a big deal,” Martinet said, trying to wriggle their hands free without making a fuss about it. “Like, I’m not doing this to be a hero or anything, I’m just here for the freaky sex.” The ground underfoot rippled like gelatin and Martinet glanced back to see Azvari with one hand clapped over her mouth.
Cedrise turned their head back with one finger under their chin. “I am grateful for your willingness to pay for my bargain, but I am also quite selfishly grateful for you allowing me to make you suffer for my pleasure.” Martinet’s whole body twitched at the words but they managed a tiny nod. “You are lovely,” Cedrise said gently, “and I suspect you will be even lovelier still when you are weak and weeping and begging me for your release.”
If wanting alone could have made them come untouched, Martinet would have managed it in that moment.
They nodded again, a jerky, uncoordinated motion, but they couldn’t manage a single word. Cedrise dropped a soft kiss on their forehead. “Before we begin, you should undress me.” She guided Martinet’s hands to a knot at one of her shoulders and waited patiently while they picked it apart with unsteady hands. “Undo the clasp of my belt at the back and it will all come off easily.”
Cedrise turned and Martinet found the delicate, gold clasp holding the silky belt together. True to Cedrise’s words, the fabric only needed a slight tug before it slithered down to pool at her feet. Without the robe, she was obviously not a human. The mushrooms from her head continued down her back, forming a spine-like line in beautiful reds and oranges. Her hips were almost normal besides the wood texture, but from mid-thigh down her legs looked like coils of tangled roots.
“Now then,” Cedrise said, “are you ready to be taken, my bold little human?” She smiled at Martinet’s eager nod and gave them a brief kiss before she urged them back toward Azvari. “Where would you like them, Lady Azvari?”
Azvari pointed sharply down toward the foot of the dais and Cedrise pushed on Martinet’s shoulders until they sank to their knees. Cedrise nudged their legs further apart and then gathered their hands up over their head. When they were settled into place, Azvari gave them one decisive nod and then peeled away from her throne, strands of shadow trailing behind her.
The ground under Martinet’s knees swelled up, wrapping snug around their feet and calves so there was no way for them to even shuffle back a single inch. Azvari dropped into a crouch in front of them, showing off her teeth again as she reached forward and pressed two fingers to Martinet’s clit.
Martinet’s confused noise turned into a sharp moan as Azvari rubbed them in perfect little circles, exactly the way Martinet touched themself when they wanted to make it quick. The pleasure built up, their thighs tensed, their back started to arch, and then Azvari pulled away. With a snap of her fingers, Martinet went from the cusp of coming down to barely turned on faster than even a bucket of ice water could have managed.
Azvari waited until Martinet caught their breath, then reached back to start the process again. Cedrise’s hands tightened on their wrists as Martinet whimpered out a protest. When they opened their mouth to beg, Azvari struck. She slid her lips over Martinet’s in a parody of a kiss, and pushed a mix of slick tongues in over theirs.
Azvari filled their mouth and this time she didn’t hesitate to shove herself down Martinet’s throat. Tears pooled in the corner of Martinet’s eyes, but they tipped their head back and opened wide. Azvari rested one hand lightly around their neck while the other went back to work between Martinet’s legs. When Martinet tried to buck their hips away, two more hands grabbed their thighs and held them locked in place, helpless under Azvari’s touch.
When she snapped her fingers again, Azvari also pulled free from Martinet’s mouth, leaving them shouting in protest. “Fuck me,” Martinet said. Their voice was halfway to hoarse already. “Please, Lady Azvari, please fuck me.” Cedrise was rubbing her thumbs idly at Martinet’s wrists, and when they glanced up her eyes were fixed on them.
Azvari tapped a finger to her lips, a playful moment of consideration that made Martinet try to struggle again. When she slid a single finger back to press into Martinet’s cunt, Martinet started up a grateful chant of, “Yes, please, yes.” They expected something like the way she had kissed them, a mix of strange cocks and tentacles filling their body.
What they got was a single finger, though it seemed to have an extra knuckle or two that Martinet tried not to think about. After it slid as deep as it could, Azvari’s finger started to expand, getting wider and wider until Martinet felt like it had formed a perfect mold of the inside of their body. Azvari watched their face intently as the shape shifted wider near the base to press brutally against their G-spot. Somehow she could still move it like a finger, tugging gently forward until the internal pressure hung right on the edge between intense pleasure and pain.
Martinet’s noises spiraled up to higher and higher pitches until Azvari eased up on the pressure and left them panting. The brush of slick sensation at their ass that came next was no surprise. Martinet didn’t even have time to think about relaxing for it before a tiny tendril of something slid inside them. They had been fucked, been fingered, and had all kinds of toys in them, but Azvari felt like none of them. The smooth strand inside them writhed and coiled around, strange but not unpleasant and smaller than Martinet would have expected.
Then a second one pressed in next to the first and Martinet realized what was going to happen. Their body clenched tight around everything inside of it, and when Azvari snapped her fingers again, Martinet’s voice broke into a sob. Azvari started to slide the not-quite-cock in their cunt out, toying the widest part right at their entrance until the stretch was almost unbearable.
Cedrise scattered kisses over the back of their hands, breath hot even against Martinet’s burning skin, and Azvari stuffed one tendril after another into their ass. She alternated between letting them coil in a dozen different directions and twining them together to fuck Martinet so deep they could hardly breathe. When Azvari kissed them again and filled their mouth, Martinet genuinely had no idea how they were still breathing.
They went limp in Cedrise’s hands and their brain drifted away. The only thing that registered clearly through the haze of overwhelming sensation was Cedrise gently stroking their head and the sound of Azvari snapping her fingers, over and over again.
It was immediately after a snap that Martinet felt the world shiver around them. Cedrise shifted her grip down, holding tight around Martinet’s forearms as the ground lurched like a mini earthquake. Azvari pressed her mouth tighter over Martinet’s, but they still heard a slight sound escape that vibrated through every cell in their body.
Azvari yanked her head back. Martinet caught one brief glance of the horrorshow of teeth, tongues, and vast, empty space that was the inside Azvari’s mouth before they shut their eyes. Several hands wrapped tight around their waist and everything inside Martinet pushed as deep as their body would allow while Azvari came in hot, pulsing waves.
When Azvari started to pull out, gentler than Martinet would have thought she would, they risked a peek downward. Shadowy shapes eased free little by little, followed by what looked like roughly a gallon of thick, white come. Martinet could feel it leaking out of them, with thicker waves every time their body clenched down hopefully on empty space. The word please was on the tip of their tongue, but Martinet couldn’t get any part of themself to cooperate.
“Hold them on your lap for me, if you would,” Cedrise said. She eased Martinet’s hands down, squeezing their upper arms gently to ease some of the tension. Martinet let their uncoordinated body be turned by too many hands and cuddled against the eldritch horror goddess’ chest. Cedrise knelt down next to them and stroked the back of her hand down Martinet’s cheek. “Do you still want me to touch you?”
Martinet flopped their head forward into something close enough to a nod and looked at Cedrise with the best pleading eyes they could manage. Cedrise chuckled at them, but she let her fingers trail down over the sweat-soaked curve of Martinet’s stomach and into the mess between their legs. “Do you want something inside you?” Cedrise asked. She traced a finger around the loose, dripping edge of Martinet’s cunt and hummed thoughtfully. “You’re so open I almost think you could take my whole hand.”
It took three tries and a lot of faint hissing sounds, but eventually Martinet got their mouth to form a coherent yes. Cedrise looked proud of them. “You are so good for me,” she said. Martinet ducked their head, which left them watching as Cedrise pulled her fingers together and started to ease them in. It was smooth enough until Cedrise got to her knuckles. Martinet was sore, and every ridge of Cedrise’s hands sent a little jolt of pain through their body.
Cedrise paused at a particularly sharp hiss and asked, “Does it hurt too much to be enjoyable?” Martinet shook their head hard and tried to roll their hips down onto Cedrise’s hand. “Maybe a little distraction is in order regardless. Lady Azvari, perhaps their chest could use some gentle attention?”
Out of the corner of their eye, Martinet saw Azvari’s smile get wider before a pair of hands closed over their breasts. It looked almost innocent from the outside, but her palms opened into her mouth somehow and she curled two different tongues over Martinet’s nipples. The next several ridges dragged increasingly loud moans out of Martinet and then the bulk of Cedrise’s hand was inside them and they could clench down over the comparably narrow span of her wrist.
“There, isn’t that better?” Cedrise’s tone was pure honey, but her smile was shading closer to Azvari’s in cruelty. She twisted her hand and even that slow, careful motion had Martinet starting to tremble. “I could bring you to your peak just like this, I suspect, but you’ve done so well.”
Cedrise leaned forward and sucked Martinet’s swollen clit into her mouth. The first brush of the texture on her tongue had Martinet babbling and they would have arched clear out of Azvari’s lap without all of her hands keeping them in place. Cedrise worked them over so gently that Martinet thought they might die before they got anywhere.
Then Cedrise shifted one knuckle into the perfect spot inside them and rolled her tongue over Martinet’s clit, and they came screaming. They were still sucking in air in huge gasps when Cedrise looked up at them and said, “One more, for me?”
Martinet nodded instantly, and the pleased look on Cedrise’s face made it all worthwhile. She didn’t drag the second one out as long, applying firm pressure inside and out, but it still felt endless. To Martinet’s dismay, the pressure behind their eyes built up faster than the pressure between their legs. Cedrise’s face got blurry as they started to cry, but her deep, pleased growl around Martinet’s clit came through loud and clear.
They sobbed through their second orgasm with their head thrown back against Azvari’s shoulder. Cedrise easing free of their body was so intense Martinet’s vision started to gray at the edges, but they breathed and whimpered and somehow hung on to consciousness. Someone was petting their hair, and saying something, but Martinet was done.
A wave of gentle warmth rolled down their body, leaving Martinet clean, dressed, and with the sharpest edges of their discomfort blunted. They had wound up on the ground rather than Azvari somehow, but the ground was carefully shaped around their body and felt like the softest mattress ever. Ultimately, Martinet had few complaints.
As their brain slowly came back online, they realized they could do something about their one major objection to the situation. A quick check showed Cedrise’s back was turned as she spoke to Azvari, so Martinet staggered to their feet and went searching. Azvari was clearly on board with the plan, because the weight they wanted was less than five steps away and not too heavy for them to carry alone.
Martinet winked at Azvari, and let the metal plunk down onto the scale with a satisfying clang.
Cedrise whirled and reached Martinet’s side with gratifying speed, but the scales had already settled out again with the balance now tipped in their favor. “What did you do?” Cedrise asked. “It was fine, everything was balanced out, we could have left.”
Martinet reached over and tapped a finger on the weight they’d added, reading I’ll come back next year. Like the other one involving them, its size gave them all kinds of warm fuzzies. Cedrise glanced from the weight to the sleepy, pleased smile Martinet could not have tamped down even if they’d wanted to. “C’mon, tell me you don’t want to do this — and me — again,” they said, adding a little eyebrow waggle for emphasis.
The gesture startled a laugh out of Cedrise. “You are incorrigible,” she said. Her expression was deeply fond despite how she rolled her eyes. “That said, I would be honored to have your company at this time next year. And also in the intervening time, if it would please you.”
“Like you even have to ask,” Martinet said. They gave one of Cedrise’s hands a quick squeeze and strolled over to Azvari. “Hey there,” they said, lowering their voice enough that they hoped Cedrise couldn’t hear. “You’re kind of really terrifying, but you’re also seriously hot and that was amazing. So… thank you.” They bowed, though it felt clumsy and probably served more to flash Azvari some cleavage than anything.
Azvari leaned forward and brushed one completely ordinary kiss over their cheek before mouthing thank you back at them. Martinet trotted happily back to Cedrise, who looked pleasantly baffled by the whole exchange. She launched into a pretty speech about their bargain being completed that Martinet felt comfortable tuning out in favor of resting their eyes.
Gravity turned off briefly and they floated up through the darkness, only to land right back on the bridge where the night had started. The sky was still dark, the planter was still nudged up against the railing, and no one was around. Cedrise helped them climb down, then trailed after Martinet as they went to retrieve their shoes and wrestled them back on.
It was cold again, and now Martinet was bone-tired to boot. They slumped forward with a faint sigh and Cedrise reached over to rest a tentative hand on their arm. “Would you allow me to take you home for the night?” she asked. Even in the dark, Martinet caught the intensity of her eyes on them. “It would please me greatly to take care of you, and see you back to your own home after you have had food and rest.”
Getting pampered by the hot tree lady was a no-brainer. “Sounds great,” Martinet said. “Lemme text my roommate that I won’t be home.” They banged out a minimal got laid don’t wait up sort of message and sent it, then turned back to see Cedrise standing next to a green, glowing magic portal. She bowed and held out a hand. Martinet happily took it, and they stepped through the portal together.