Lightning can strike twice – even in an orgy

“Master.”

Hal didn’t want to hear the voice. He didn’t want
anything to intrude on whatever level of life he
was now floating on. Eyes closed, a bed of
unbelievable softness underneath him, the distant
but comforting sounds of Josephine’s claws
scratching on the dirt floor — and, best of all,
the utterly satisfying feeling of having had his
seed thoroughly drained out of his balls by the
expert mouth of a beautiful woman.

“Master.”

He was experiencing a feeling he’d never known
before — complete and total happiness wrapped up
in warm shroud of satisfaction. Or perhaps it was
a feeling of complete and total satisfaction
wrapped up in a warm shroud of happiness.
Whichever it was, and wherever Hal was between
waking and sleeping, the one thing he was sure of
was that he didn’t want to be disturbed.

“Master!”

There was a tone of sharpness in the witch’s
voice at the third word which Hal’s sense of self
preservation could no longer ignore. His eyelids
parted to see the bright bars of light poking
down through the dusty rafters from chinks in the
roof of the dragon shed. The sun was no longer
new born; now it was a full of shining vigor.
Unlike Hal, who was fully aware that the one
certain thing the coming day did not hold for him
was any further peace and quiet. And even in his
previous state of content distant voices had been
calling out to him in anguish.

“Morgana, there are things we must do.”

“Of course there are, master. I let you rest so
you would be ready for the ceremony in your body,
but calm in mind. Now you must collect some of
your dragon’s sweat to take with you.”

“It’s not that simple. We must talk about
something.”

“What is this ‘something’?”

Hal stared at the smooth lines of the witch’s
body under her tight fitting leather clothes. The
notion of any woman venturing out of doors
wearing such immodest attire was still incredible
to him. But perhaps no more than the idea of any
woman at all calling him her master. Even one who
said the word as if she was spitting out a piece
of rotten meat.

“The prison tower. The prisoners that Agrud keeps
in it. I mean, the prisoners he used to keep in
it. No, I mean the prisoners that are there
because Agrud put them there when he was king.”

Morgana’s finely drawn features crinkled in vague
amusement at the boy’s tongue tied awkwardness:
the kind of amusement a cat enjoys with a mouse
trapped underneath its paw.

“What of them?”

“They must be released and cared for.”

“Why, master?”

“Because . . .” Hal found it difficult to find
words for something which was so obvious it
shouldn’t require any explanation. “Because Agrud
no longer rules here and there is no need to
continue his cruelty. Let them out and let them
be comforted.”

Morgana shrugged her shoulders — broad
shoulders, for all the suppleness of her body:
“If you wish, master, but not today. The ceremony
must needs be held today.”

Hal gritted his teeth, remembering the stench
that hung around the prison keep and trying to
imagine what it must be like to exist in such a
place.

“You say you promised to obey me, you call me
master. Then do as I bid you.”

The witch shook her head: “No, you do not
remember all that was said. In matters of sorcery
you are my apprentice and do as I say. The
ceremony to strip Gaunt Gregory of his powers
must be held today and all other matters are
subordinate to that great matter. The prisoners
will stay where they are for the present. Come,
arise and to your task.”

Hal lifted his upper body to obey — then stopped
in mid movement as another thought came into his
mind. Part and parcel of his first words, two
impulses somehow linked together in his mind
while he was half asleep, and only now had the
second one been snagged and dragged out as the
first was unfolded in his speech.

“No, wait, the two things are connected.”

“What do you mean?”

“The ceremony with the women. Where have you
planned to hold it?”

“Inside the castle tower which was Gregory’s
quarters,” she answered. “Why?”

Hal sat on the edge of the bed and ran his
fingers through his tangled hair.

“Witch, think about what you want me to do. To
gather together the dozen most desirable women in
the castle and treat them like camp following
whores. Can you imagine what their fathers,
brothers and husbands will do once they have any
inkling about the sort of magic you want me to
help you perform? You may think yourself in no
danger of being harmed because of who and what
you are, but I’m still only Hal the shit bucket
boy to these people. Turn your back on me for a
minute and without your protection I’ll be at the
bottom of the moat with more knifes in me than
the castle armory. If we must have this ceremony
there needs to be some discretion in the
arranging of it.”

The witch folded her arms with the air of a
tavern mistress ready to deal with a brain
befuddled drunk: “And you have found such a
pathway to discretion, Duke Merlin?”

The tone was tinged with unconcealed sarcasm but
Hal cared not, for everything had suddenly fallen
into place in his mind like the pieces in a
winning chess game.

“Yes. Or at least the path to the Devil’s
Arsehole.”

He saw Morgana’s brows furrow in puzzlement.

“It’s a cave, in the forest, about a league and a
half from the castle. If you go deep into it,
without getting lost in the different turns
underground, there’s a place where hot mud and
water come bubbling up. From somewhere deep in
the ground. And the water and the mud are
supposed to be good cures for all ills. The mud
to lie in and the waters to drink. But it’s a
difficult place to get into and only the rich and
the brave dare go inside.”

“Why so?”

“Because there are many false turns and because,
as you go further in and the air grows warmer,
the mould on the sides of the caves gets thicker
and many poisonous spiders live in it. But the
real problem is the darkness. Or perhaps I should
say the real problem is the damp air inside the
cave which puts out torches made of wood. The
only way to light your way inside the Devil’s
Arsehole is with a wax candle inside a glass
lantern. Things that only the rich can afford to
use. And, sometimes, even such lanterns will go
out and not relight in the dampness. Which leaves
any travellers lost in the dark with only the red
eyes of thousands of spiders to show the way.”

“So nobody goes there, then?” the witch asked,
apparently interested.

“A few only, seeking whatever good the mud and
water within might do them, though only if they
be desperate, or perhaps so ill they no longer
value their lives much anyway. Years ago three
brothers began a business by bringing out the mud
in wicker back packs to sell to the sick and
elderly. The Gulburton brothers they were called
and they thought to make themselves so familiar
with the all the turns and trails of the cave
that they could never get lost, even without any
torches and candles.”

“And did they?”

Hal shrugged: “I think not. At any rate they all
went into the Devil’s Arsehole one day and never
came out again. Nobody knows what happened to
them.”

Morgana chuckled: “I daresay the castle ladies
would need to be driven with whips to persuade
them to venture inside such a place.”

Hal tugged nervously at his fingers. He was
unused to playing the advocate, especially for
his own ideas. Until yesterday he’d never been
important enough to have ideas.

“That depends on your powers, Morgana. If you
could provide them with light enough for the
journey and led the women in yourself, promising
to protect them from all harm or any danger of
getting lost . . . well then, they might come
along peacefully enough. But no mention of any
ceremony, not to them or to any of their menfolk.
Give the women buckets and shoulder yokes and
tell them you want mud brought from inside the
cave to help ease the pains of the released
prisoners. Tell them it is my command.”

He was surprised to hear Morgana chuckle; even
more surprised to see what looked like a flicker
of respect on her face.

“Well, who could believe that a lowly castle
valet could be so tricky? But why should women be
used for such a job when surely the men of the
castle could carry heavier loads?”

“By Odin’s sword, are you not a witch, a
sorceress, a magician powerful enough to make all
tremble? Tell the silly bitches you’re going to
use spells that no man must witness, tell them
you don’t want their delicate eyes offended by
the sight of dirty and naked inmates being
carried from the Prison Tower. Tell them whatever
fancy comes to your mind, it matters naught.
You’ll be believed instantly and obeyed without
question. Provided only you can find a way to
light up the caves.”

The witch smiled: “That is an easy enough task I
warrant, Master. Can this cave be reached by a
cart?”

“The high born ladies of the kingdom can’t be
seen riding in a cart,” Hal protested. “It would
humiliate them beyond all measure before the
surfs.”

“The cart is only for the mud to come back in.
And to carry those buckets you speak of. The
women may ride their palfries if they wish. But
is there track enough for oxen and a cart?”

“Yes, there’s a good enough track. An hour’s
journey from the castle should suffice.”

“Then all that needs to be done is for you to
travel to the cave and wait for us to arrive. I
shall summon Ymir to guide you to a place inside
the cave where I shall bring the women to you.”

“Ymir? I’m to go into the Devil’s Arsehole with
your familiar to protect me from the dangers
within? Perhaps the Gulburtons will soon have
some company wherever they are because I’m sure
Ymir hates me.”

Morgana’s eyes were as distant and cold as the
stars on midwinter night.

“So do I, Hal O’The Shitbuckets, never doubt it.
Calling a half grown boy my master sticks in my
throat like a bundle of dry fish bones. But we
all serve the Great Ones and none of us dare
disobey their commands. Ymir will keep you safe.
And forget not your vial of dragon sweat, no
matter what. That is my order to you as my
apprentice in sorcery.”

“Yes, witch.”

“And best leave your warlock’s gown here. It
would be lacking in respect to your craft to wear
formal dress in such a place as you describe to
me.”

“Yes, witch.”

With his heart filled with apprehension Hal began
his duties for this strangest of days by laying
out the dragon riding nets ready for his journey
to the cave entrance.

If there had been any clouds in the sky at dawn
Hal could not remember seeing them. And if there
had been any since, they were gone now. The sky
arching over the tops of the trees was a unmarked
mantle of blue. There were traces of white
visible though, along the upper flanks of the
mountains where patches of snow struggled for
existence under the sun’s noonday power. From
Josephine’s belly net the views across the forest
and out to the mountains had been more beautiful
than Hal could ever remember.

Probably because he’d never looked at the scenery
of Giant’s Pass before with any notion of one day
perhaps being free to roam wherever he wanted
over it. Yesterday he had been a slave who
carried shit buckets, today he was in thrall to a
witch, but perhaps soon he would be free to soar
with Josephine up to the tops of those mountains,
to breathe the crisp high air and walk with
Chelinde and Caelia amongst the glittering white
patches of the fading snowline. Or better still .
. . Hal had a inspiring vision of reaching out a
hand to drop a snowball down Mary Gorlas’s ample
cleavage and suddenly felt better. Until his eyes
turned again to the reeking entrance of the
Devil’s Arsehole.

Oh, wonderful! The grass was green, the air was
sparkling, his stomach was full of good food, he
was clean and Josephine frolicsome. What a day
to fly to the very peaks. And where was he to go
instead? Into that foul dungeon of a cavern where
so many who went in never came out. On the other
hand — on the other hand he knew very well what
would happen to him if the men of the nobility
ever suspected him of tupping their fine ladies,
even if only by sorcery. Having his balls cut of
and fried in front of his eyes would be the least
of their revenge.

Josephine flung up her head, the flashing red
stripes along her neck sounding a warning. Hal
squinted up at the two black dots circling
overhead which had suddenly spoilt the sky’s
pristine perfection. Then the high flying objects
plunged together, dropping towards the clearing
beside the pile of boulders which marked the
entrance to the cave. It seemed as if they were
racing towards the ground, seeing which one of
them could reach it first, Ymir the shape changer
in his guise as a hawk, his wings half folded,
and Morgana astride her broom, handle up and
twigs down, her knees bent as if jumping down
from a hayrick instead of dropping from half a
league aloft like a plunging arrow. Josephine’s
colors turned to an optimistic shade of green and
Hal knew exactly what was going on in the
dragon’s mind: a keen hope that both witch and
familiar would slam themselves into the grass —
or better yet, the boulders — with killing
speed.

It didn’t happen. Ymir used the falcon’s shape as
skillfully as any true hatched member of the
wild’s most gifted fliers. Wings flung open, the
speed of the fall somehow converted into a short,
steep climb, a second where the falcon hung in
the air level with the bottom branches of the
nearest tree, a flutter of wing tips and the
familiar passed out of sight by diving straight
into the cave’s dark entrance. It was an
impressive performance but not nearly as
impressive as the witch’s fall to earth.

She was just low enough for Hal to begin taking a
interested look at her leather bound legs when a
sound like a chorus of fast beaten war drums
sounded, blasts of hot air slapped against Hal’s
face and a circle of grass three paces across
directly below the falling witch turned red,
flared up, then blew outwards in an expanding
ring of fine ash. Hal coughed, shut his eyes
against the particles of fine dust and wiped his
eyelids with his hands. When he opened them again
Morgana was standing in the burnt circle, those
lust creating legs opened wide enough for the
broom to fly out from between them and then hang
level like a patient horse waiting to be mounted
again.

Hal grunted in surprise and rubbed fragments of
ash between his fingertips. He remembered how
carts being eased downhill with their brakes
jammed on became hot at the wooden brake blocks
and along the edges of the restrained wheels. Had
something like that happened here, with the
falling weight of Morgana’s body somehow being
turned into noise and heat so she could land
safely?

Oh, the idea of his ever becoming a magician was
ridiculous. Every time he saw magic performed he
gained no insight into how it was done, only a
childish desire to ask endless questions.

“So, master, you have the dragon sweat ready?”

Hal held up the glass vial she had given him,
handling it with the care such a rare piece of
craftsmanship deserved, showing the clear fluid
inside to Morgana. Then he wrapped the vial up
again inside a piece of sheepskin and stowed it
away in the drawbag slung around his neck.

“Your dragon had best depart now. Has she enough
sense to return here when the evening shadows are
long, if you so bid her?”

“She is no dog, to be needs taught tricks,” Hal
answered sullenly. “She lives and thinks as do
you or I. Speaking to her with my hands is as
easy as speaking to anybody else with my tongue.”

He passed on Morgana’s instructions to Josephine,
to be answered with green and yellow patches of
understanding, mixed with purple patches showing
indignation and unhappiness. The dragon was in
just as surly a mood as the boy at having to take
orders from the witch. Hal nodded in agreement,
then shrugged his shoulders. Josephine took one
final baleful look at Morgana before she leapt
into the air as spritely as a frog off a lily
pad, flapped her wings twice thrice, and then
wheeled away on their outstretched length.

“Something amiss with your girlfriend, boy?” the
witch asked, a sneer in her tone. Hal realized
that there were some movements in his dragon body
language which were no secret to any human
onlooker.

“Only that she regrets not having burnt your tits
off while she had a chance.”

Morgana smiled more openly: “Don’t be stupid,
Master. You can’t kill witches that way.”

“You can’t?”

“Of course not. When did you ever hear anybody
say the weather was as hot as a witch’s tits. Ha,
ha!”

Hal looked at her slantwise: “Come to think of
it, I’ve never heard anybody say that a joke was
as good as a witch’s jokes. Now I know why.”

Morgana’s very appealing lips snapped shut as
tightly and quickly as a sprung bear trap.

“Into the cave, please. As quickly as you like,
Ymir is waiting.”

“How am I supposed to see where I’m going?”

“Look into the hole and see the shadows being
cast inside. Ymir has taken the shape of a giant
glow worm. All you have to do is to follow him.”

“A giant glow worm . . . right. You couldn’t just
give me a magic lantern or something?”

“There is no need, my familiar will see you safe.
Now leave, quickly, before the women get here.”

Hal took a final breath of crisp fresh air and
walked boldly into the cave. At least he hoped he
looked bold: going underground with no companion
save an oversized worm was an event he hadn’t
anticipated and didn’t relish at all. Five heart
beats later he leapt out of the cave, skipping
over the litter of fallen rocks as if the
Christian Devil himself had been waiting in the
gloom to drive a red hot spear into his backside.

“Morgana! Inside . . .” He struggled for breath.
“Legs! Claws! Fria und Odin!”

“Legs, master?”

“A dozen of them! There’s a cockroach as big as a
hound in there!”

Morgana shook her head in open despair at her
pupil’s stupidity: “Master, didn’t you know that
glow worms are really beetles with shiny patches
on their backs?”

“What?”

“Glow worms are not really worms — they are not
worms.” The witch seemed to be trying to speak
through clenched but perfectly white teeth. “Glow
worms are beetles. Luminous beetles. So Ymir has
taken the shape of a beetle; not a worm, nor yet
a cockroach, but a beetle. A perfectly harmless
beetle. Now will you please follow him and stop
wasting our time?”

Hal swallowed a mouthful of the mountain air as
if it were a lump of stone and gripped his hands
together to stop them trembling.

“Oh, sure, I’d love to. There’s nothing I’d
rather do than crawl into the Devil’s Arsehole
with a bloody big beetle for company.”

“This was all your idea, remember? And if you
think to see nothing worse than Ymir as an
apprentice magician, you have much to learn,
young Hal.”

The boy struggled to make light if his panic. If
the witch could joke, then so could he.

“Call me master when you’re calling me an idiot.”

“Yes, master.”

She bit the words off as if they were rats and
she was a terrier breaking their backs. Hal had a
sudden flash of memory, of the streaks of shit on
King Agrud’s royal rump as he staggered away from
his castle with smoldering stumps where his hands
had been. By Loki’s drawers, he must be mad to be
playing the fool with this woman!

“I’m sorry, Morgana, I was just startled, that’s
all. Now I know what to expect I’ll get on with
it.”

He crept cautiously back into the cavern
entrance, back into the gloom and towards the
glowing patch where a green glow threw a ring
around the cave’s interior, casting strange
shadows amongst the overhead rocks, the almost
circular walls and the sandy floor. Though none
of the shadows were anywhere near as strange as
the humped and glowing wing case standing nearly
as high as Hal’s knees and supported on several
pairs of hairy, many jointed legs. Legs that
were moving up and down the gigantic beetle’s
body in a sort of ripple effect, as if they were
all taking turns to stamp down on the sand with
impatience.

Hal cleared his throat and spoke: “Uh, sorry,
Ymir, you took me by surprise. I’m ready now,
though.”

The words came bouncing back at his ears from
different directions, somehow louder and much
distorted in the humid air. Much more
disturbingly, tiny red eyes were beginning to
appear in the surrounding darkness like embers
carried out of a bonfire on a strong wind. Ymir
scuttled forward, Hal said a rude word and had to
rush forward to keep up with the familiar.

“Slower, slower, or I’ll fall over on these
rocks.”

If the beetle slowed, it wasn’t by much. Which
wasn’t surprising. Ymir was probably still
bearing a grudge for being blown out of the sky
and into the turd filled moat.

“Hey, Ymir, if I break a leg I won’t be able to
perform at this ceremony the way that Morgana
wants me to.”

That line of argument seemed more successful. The
beetle’s pace dropped, although the sarcasm
evident in the deliberate movement of each pair
of legs was obvious. Of all the humiliating
things that Hal thought might happen to him in
his life, it had never occurred to him that one
of them might be having the piss taken out of him
by an insect. Still, there were worse fates than
that around: just ask the Gulburton brothers.

Hal only hoped he wouldn’t have any such chance.
He kept glancing over his shoulder, afraid that
three skeletons with backpacks of rotting
wickerwork might be tiptoeing up behind him. But
there was nothing except the dwindling circle of
sunlight at the cave’s entrance, quickly lost
from sight as Ymir came to a junction in the
passageway and turned left. Now there was only
the light cast by the beetle on the surrounding
walls and a roof which came lower and lower as
they moved onwards. Underfoot, more and bigger
rocks appeared and the sand became wetter, oozing
out from underneath Hal’s sandals.

Another turn, and then another, the cave growing
ever smaller, the air becoming as hot as the
castle kitchen with every spit roasting, as damp
as rising fog, and smelling of exactly the kind
of smell your nose would expect to find in a
place called the Devil’s Arsehole.

“Oh, yes, very romantic,” Hal muttered in self
scorn under his breath. “What a wonderful place
this is for a lovers’ rendezvous. I chose really
well here, didn’t I?”

The beetle suddenly stopped, its stag like
antenna poking out over the edge of a pool of
pitch black water. It was as if a puppy had
pushed its nose into a bed of stinging nettles
and didn’t know which way to turn next. Some
measure of pleasure came back to the boy.

“Go on then, you clever little bastard, show me
how well a beetle can swim.”

Ymir turned left, walked up the wall with a
clatter of claws, hung upside from the top of the
cavern and walked forward again as easily as he
had done down on the ground.

“Fuck me,” Hal said in disgust and waded into the
water.

It was like stepping into a slab of polished
black marble: at least, until the ripples from
his movements began to disturb the absolutely
smooth surface of the pool. He was wet to the top
of his thighs when he came out the other side.
Ymir continued to show his contempt for the
human’s clumsy steps by keeping to the cave’s
roof as he moved on. At least it was easier to
see the way with the light above Hal’s head; what
he didn’t enjoy was noting how many more of those
glittering red eyes were lurking in the patches
of moss growing on either side of the cave. Fria
und Odin, there were more spiders here than ants
in a nest!

If walking along this pathway without a light was
what the Gulburton brothers had been willing to
do to make some quick florins, they deserved
every penny of whatever they’d earned before fate
foreclosed on their borrowed luck. Hal wouldn’t
have come back into this cave a second time for a
backpack of gold coins, let alone one filled only
with medicinal mud.

More turns, more pools, two of them, the second
up to his waist again, another turn . . . Hodur,
god of darkness, he’d never be able to find his
way out of here on his own now. Then ahead, two
or three steps further on, there was a pile of
boulders, with a trickle of water running over
the top and down the front of the lowest of them.
The rocks made a barrier right across the width
of the cave and came up to Hal’s chest. The thing
which immediately caught his eye was the grove
worn into the top of the rock by the gentle
runnel of water — this wasn’t the wear of
years, this was a mark left by passing centuries.

Ymir passed over the barrier of the rocks,
dipping up and down as his beetle shape crossed
the gap in the roof the boulders must have
dropped out of, so long ago that perhaps giants
had still walked in these mountains when the fall
had happened.

Then the familiar stopped, illuminating a rough
dome shaped section of cavern overhead. A myriad
of other lights sprang up around the glowing wing
case, but not spider’s eyes, not these. Blue,
green, yellow, from the size of a fist down to a
tiny speckling, all different kinds of minerals
or precious stones which caught the faintest of
light and returned each ray brightly burnished in
a shiny new color. It was like looking up into a
cloudless night sky filled with a mass of many
hued stars. And it was a beautiful sight.

Hal could have stood and stared with his mouth
hanging open a lot longer than he did. He would
have done so except that the beetle’s legs began
dancing with impatience again.

“All right, all right, I’m coming.”

He splashed into the puddle at the bottom of the
rocky barrier and found several projecting ledges
where he could place his hands and feet. One step
up and Hal was looking out over a circular pool
trapped between the barrier of fallen rocks and
the wall which marked the end of the tunnel.
Perhaps ten paces across and as dark as the other
pools he’d crossed, but not as smooth, because
there seemed to be some kind of disturbance in
the middle of this one, where every few seconds a
bubble or two would emerge and break, sending out
a hatching of ruffled water. That must be were
the spring water came up, still hot, for wisps of
vapor hung above the pool. And all around the
water’s edges was a ring of mud, as black as the
water itself and only distinguishable by the lack
of tiny ripples which the breaking bubbles threw
out.

Obviously, the trickle of rising water had been
bringing up silt since time out of mind, silt
which had settled down as the mud deposits while
the water itself had continually escaped over and
down the rocks he was standing on. Hal leaned
forward and cautiously put the tip of his finger
into the mud pressed up against the barrier. It
was not cold, not hot. He reached out further and
dabbed just as cautiously at the edge of the
pool: the water was warmer, as warm as milk
straight out of a cow’s teats. Overhead, the
glowing beetle was hanging like a crescent moon,
a moon which was still quivering with impatience.

“All right, I’m coming. Watch me!”

Hal undid his jerkin, his shirt, and took them
off. Then his sandals and breeks. Wrapping all
together, he added the drawbag from around his
neck and used the cord to secure the bundle. Then
he carefully eased his naked body over the rocks
and into the mud. An exploring foot found a
shallow rocky bottom on which he easily stood,
his knees about on a level with the top of the
mud. Which was fine, though taking a step forward
set Hal waving his arms to keep his balance.

“Fria!” he grunted, in fear of falling over.

The beetle walked down the wall, stopping just
above the mudbank on the far side of the pool. It
was clear that Ymir was showing the boy where he
was to wait for the women. A goal easier
indicated than reached, at least for somebody
handicapped by a human body.

Hal struggled to keep steady on his feet as he
moved forward. He felt happier as he reached the
water and the top of the pool rose up above his
waist to his chest. Now he had something to help
him keep upright. Which was fine until the water
was almost level with his shoulders while his
legs were still half buried in the mud. It was
impossible to make progress through such a morass
by walking.

Fortunately, he could swim, after a fashion, a
few desperate strokes with his arms as he dragged
his legs free and let them trail behind him,
until he was across the pool and sprawled out on
his stomach on the mudbank at the end of the
cave. Hal felt like a spawning eel trying to
crawl along a riverbank past a blocking weir. And
even land bound eels didn’t have the problem of
dragging a bundle with them. His scraps of
clothing were now no more than a tangle of mud
plastered rags, dirtier even than when he’d worn
them whilst emptying the castle shit pots.

Grunting with the effort Hal crawled forward on
his hands and knees, his fingers spread out wide
to keep them as much as possible from sinking
into the mud under his weight. Luckily, the rocky
edge at the back of the cave was only a pace or
two away and he was soon able to haul himself
onto it, though his arm and leg muscles had to
work hard to break free of the mud.

In fact a lot of it came with him, stuck to his
body, and with no clean water within reach to
wash it off with. Furthermore, it wasn’t the kind
of mud he was used to, the usual clumpy admixture
of water and earth. This cave mud had no lumps in
it at all, it was as smooth and consistent as a
bowl of rich man’s porridge, only black instead
of white. And, like the pool water, it smelt of
sulphur but not strongly enough to be an
irritant. Yet, with his bare buttocks trying to
find somewhere comfortable on the stone ledge,
and almost all of the rest of his body plastered
with the gooey mud, Hal was having trouble in
believing that this place was at all healthy —
except perhaps for a boy who needed a totally
secure tupping place.

And even that idea dwindled as rapidly as the
overhead light when Ymir suddenly spun around and
scampered back up the tunnel roof in a rustle of
legs, leaving the pool and the surrounding walls
in the dark. Dark! What was left behind wasn’t
any kind of normal darkness, it was as black as
the bottom of a filled grave, a suffocating
blackness so complete it filled Hal’s eyes, his
ears, even his mouth as he bellowed out in shock.

“What the fuck! Come back here, Ymir, you little
bastard!”

Nothing, no answer, no response, only the memory
of a last quenched out flicker of light as the
beetle shot around a far bend of the tunnel like
a hunted hare dodging a close running hound.

“Oh shit! Oh, Fria!” Hal wailed.

It had never crossed his mind that Ymir would
leave him down here in the bottom of the Devil’s
Arsehole. But within a quarter of the time it
took for a snowflake to melt in a fire it
occurred to him that the witch had found an
excellent way of ridding herself of an unwanted
Master. And he’d been the fool who had made it so
easy for her. A mouse who had walked up to a cat
and bitten its nose would have been smarter than
Hal had been.

“Oh, fuck!”

Oh, fuck indeed.

Here was a tale indeed to take to the halls of
the dead. Hal imagined himself standing on a high
stage, looking out over an audience of faces
extending to the very edge of infinity, the face
of every person who had ever lived and died, and
having to explain to them the details of his own
demise.

‘Well, there was this witch who had to do
everything I told her to. And she wanted me to
fuck a whole lot of the best looking women in a
castle to cast some spells, and we were going to
do it inside a magician’s tower where their
menfolk wouldn’t dare enter. But I had a better
plan, and it worked out so well I ended up dying
of starvation in the bottom of a cave without
even being able to see a single ray of light, let
alone a woman.’

Odin himself would fall off his throne laughing
at such a tale — nobody had ever been such an
idiot before, not even Hagar the Hungless, who’d
drunk so much ale one night he’d gone to sleep in
the pig pen and woke up at daybreak to find
himself lying in a pool of bloody ice. Aye, and
with his cock at the other end of the pen being
chewed between the teeth of his biggest sow. But
on a measure of stupidity Hagar’s mishap didn’t
even weigh in as a grain of wheat compared to the
orders that Hal had given out. From now on,
whenever the name of Merlin was mentioned
amongst wizards and warlocks they would all piss
themselves laughing at the memory of the
stupidest apprentice ever to don a magician’s
gown. There was no way, no way at all that things
could be worse than they were.

And just as he thought so, Hal’s cock hardened,
stiffened and reared up like a knight’s lance
being raised aloft at a joust.

“Fria, please, no. Not that, not now.”

Hal’s fingers tore open the top of his bag and
felt inside. They found the vial, but not the
cork which should have been stoppering the end of
it. Somehow it had come loose as he’d been
fighting his way across the pool and all the
dragon sweat had leaked out. Leaked out into the
sheepskin wrapping, through the sheepskin and the
bag and into the pool. Where his body had touched
it as he’d floundered through the water. Which
was why he was now entering a state of raging
arousal with no means of satisfying it except the
one means at hand — his own hand. A relief he
would have to use over and over again every time
he attempted to cross the pool.

So now he couldn’t even die peacefully of
starvation. He couldn’t even talk in the
afterlife of being tricked into death by a witch.
No, what Hal was going to have to confess to the
assembled multitudes in eternity that he was the
first male ever to masturbate himself off the
mortal coil. The first case ever of a boy who
beat himself to death with his own club. He, Duke
Merlin, Hal O’The Shitbuckets, was going to be
entered into Heaven’s Roll as the biggest wanker
of all time. In a Valhalla full of heroes who had
fallen on their own swords, he was going to be
renowned as the numb nut who committed suicide by
falling on his own prick. Great!

Hal stared into the complete curtain of
surrounding blackness, sighed, and spoke to
himself: “Well, if I do go blind, at least it
won’t matter now.”

But what he was really pissed off about was that
he hadn’t given Mary Gorlas a good seeing to when
he’d had the chance. Oh Odin, the sight of her
huge tits falling out of her torn dress and the
feel of them in his hands. If only he’d known he
was going to die next day he’d have had her there
and then. . . Hal’s fingers worked against his
tightly drawn shaft as he dreamed about what
might have been. If only he could be there in the
hall again, he’d sit down on the King’s own high
chair with Mary impaled on his lap, shaking her
fat bum at all the assembled aristocrats and her
gigantic teats bouncing in his face . . .

Or if he’d known how to work that levitation
spell properly, like Morgana could, he’d have
arranged Mary floating at waist height, face down
and hanging onto the edge of the table as he
took her from behind with her udders swinging
around underneath every which way . . . Oh Gods!
What a chance he’d missed!

Somewhere in the back of Hal’s mind a voice
spoke, small but clear. Hadn’t Morgana said
something about him being responsible for lifting
Mary off the floor? That somehow he’d been able
to expand and use the levitation spell that
Morgana had created? And hadn’t she insisted that
he had the makings of being a great magician —
could there be any truth at all in that? Or had
she just been totally bullshitting him?

And what about all her words about sex and magic
being connected? Certainly, he was in no position
to do any fucking right now but if just thinking
about sex was any help the dragon sweat certainly
had him in the right frame of mind. Was there any
chance of maybe using magic to help himself in
this situation. And, if there was, what did he
want?

That was easy, what he really wanted a female to
fuck. But creating a girl out of thin air was
probably not the sort of thing he should try for
his first attempt at magic. Even if he could do
it, you wouldn’t want to stick your cock into the
first result, not in the dark without any idea of
what you’d actually made. Even Hagar the
Hungless’s sow might be a sexy good looker in
comparison.

No, light of some kind. That was what he most
needed, here and now. Wasn’t what that one of the
things the Christian monks used to read from
their book? Yes, that was it, that was one of
their sayings, ‘let there be light’. And their
god was called Jesus Christ, so maybe Hal should
pray to him as he tried to make light.

But how to do that? Especially as he couldn’t
stop wanking himself off and his mind was full of
pictures of a gasping, shrieking Mary Gorlas.

All right, he was tupping Mary, and she was on
her back on the dining hall in the great hall and
a brilliantly strong light was shining down into
the hall — the roof had disappeared, a summer
sun was directly overhead, not a cloud in the
sky, the sun was getting bigger, getting closer,
the rays were pouring down, filling the room with
a light that was so bright, brighter than anybody
had ever seen, as bright as the rainbow bridge
that led to the home of the Gods . . .

There was a kind of a popping noise and a big fat
spark shot out from the slit of Hal’s straining
prick, hit the tunnel roof, bounced off it, hit
the cavern wall, shot away like a falling star,
hit the opposite wall, flew off again at a crazy
angle, slammed down into the pool and disappeared
in a puff of steam.

“Jesus Christ!” Hal gasped. The shock had been so
complete that for that second he’d even forgotten
about Mary Gorlas’s body.

He realized immediately that it was a turning
point in his life. For the first time ever, Hal
had totally impressed himself by his own
abilities. After all, there he was, only an
ordinary shit pot cleaner, and it turned out that
all the time he’d had some kind of a raging
thunderstorm swinging around between his legs.

What about those nights at the tavern when Karl
the Head House Carl had filled himself up with
ale and proved it by bending over in front of a
candle and letting loose a fart which burst into
a jet of flame? Hadn’t he impressed the shit out
of everybody? By Odin, the next time he tried it
Hal would laugh, pull out his cock and jerk off a
shower of sparks to go flying around the taproom.
That would leave high and mighty Karl with his
breeks and his jaw hanging down.

Fucking right, Hal might only be a poor surf but
what was being poor when you had more lightning
in your donger than Thor had in his hammer? If
that wasn’t a trick that got you invited to
parties, what would? And wait until he showed
Josephine, she’d go white and orange spots with
laughing at a human coming it the flame throwing
dragon!

But, impressive as it was, a single spark wasn’t
going to get him out of the Devil’s Arsehole. He
needed something different. So what by Fria’s
skirts could he do now to create a sustained
light. Think of a girl, think of fucking her,
think of light. But maybe a different girl — or
girls. Maybe two cunts were better than one . . .
the riding net, with Chelinde and Caelia.

Which one had he had first — Caelia, that was
right, jammed in between him and the dragon’s
belly, with Chelinde scratching his balls as he
rammed her sister. Oh, Fria, it had been so good,
as good as being a god himself. The sky, the sun,
the suns, all around the dragon, all beaming so
brightly as he fucked Caelia, all lighting up
every strand of her hair, every freckle,
reflecting back from her eyes. . .

A pearl of glittering light popped out of his
cock this time, an tiny incandescent pearl which
floated upwards as lightly and erratically as a
butterfly. But as small as it was, it lit up the
mud ring and the nearer part of the pool water.
Overhead, the blackness became speckled again
from the minerals reflecting in the rising light.

“That must be what they call ball lightning,” Hal
giggled, as near his wit’s ends as any village
idiot. And then the drifting bead of light winked
out like a closing eye.

“Oh, shit!”

This was no good. He needed something which would
glow like a candle long enough to crawl out of
this stinking cave — and if ever he did, he’d be
into Josephine’s riding nets and away over the
mountains quicker than a fiddler’s elbow playing
at a wedding. But not until he’d fucked Dairy
Mary Gorlas first. Hal seized his cock even more
firmly and then found himself distracted even
from the pressing need for self release by
something impossible. For he could hear voices
singing — female voices!

By the Gods, the Valkyries themselves were coming
to bear him up to Valhalla and singing a chorus
of heavenly music as they arrived.

“We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in a mine the
whole day through
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we like to
do.”

Huh! This was the sort of song the Gods sang?

No, of course not. There was one dominating voice
pitched pure and clear above the others and Hal
was certain it was Morgana’s. She was leading the
women into the cave and encouraging them to sing
to keep up their spirits. But where she’d learnt
the song, the Gods alone knew — certainly Hal
had never heard anything like it sung in these
parts. But it had a nice tune to it. And Hal had
spent enough time working around high born
females’ apartments to know that many of them,
surprisingly, had a rather wry sense of humor.
Probably a necessary survival trait because even
the worst of the aristocratic dames and damsels
didn’t seem to deserve the sort of so called
noblemen they had to live with.

Whatever, the approaching voices were singing
along with Morgana as lustily as the crowd
following the ale cart back from the fields on
the last day of harvest gathering.

“It ain’t no trick
To get mud quick
If you dig dig dig
With a shovel or a pick
In a mine (In a mine)
In a mine (In a mine).
Where a million diamonds
Shine.”

Light was suddenly flooding the far bend of the
cave and figures came around it. Female figures,
each carrying a yoke pole with wooden buckets
hanging from them. Each pole was also carrying
something else as well, halfway between each
bucket rope and the shoulder yoke, and that
something was a glass lantern with a burning
candle inside it. For fuck’s sake, all the effort
he’d put into getting Morgana to give him some
magical means of lighting the cave and he’d never
even thought to just ask for a couple of top
quality lanterns.

And what would Morgana do to him when she
discovered he’d already spilt the entire vial of
dragon sweat? Even Hal’s raging lust couldn’t
entirely douse his fear about the answer to that
question. Morgana was likely to leave him
underground and bound like Loki the fallen god,
with serpent’s poison dripping into his face
forever more.

And then Hal forget everything else as he saw how
clear was each curved silhouette between each
pair of lanterns — silhouettes with nothing on
to protect their naked charms from his gloating
eyes. By the Gods, the witch must have warned the
gentlewomen against spoiling their fine clothes
in the mud and told them to them to strip off at
the cave entrance. And they’d done it!

“Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
It’s off to work we go.”

Overhead, the colored stones above the pool began
glittering again in the approaching lights. There
were so many women, so many lanterns, the cave
was filling up with light. And there, leading
them, as completely naked as her companions, was
Morgana. But as desirable as her body usually
was, there was something disconcerting about it
this time. Perhaps because of the tiny bubble of
pure light which hung above her head and stayed
in that position, moving as she did. Even in his
dragon sweat induced passion Hal wondered if the
witch had created the light in any way akin to
his own unexpected experiments.

“We dig up mudpies
By the score
A thousand shovel fulls,
Sometimes more
We don’t know what we dig them for
We dig dig . . .”

The voices trailed as Morgana stopped leading the
song. The witch had halted at the barrier of rock
holding back the pool.

“Take the buckets off the yokes, ladies. Just
reach out and take the handles in your hands. And
don’t hesitate, no matter what happens around
you.”

The woman standing behind Morgana was a sulky
faced young wife called Sirit Plunketburg. Her
dark hair was piled high on top of her head and
hung down her back like a horse’s tail, her tits
were as perky and pointed as brass candle
snuffers, the black bush between her legs matched
her hair coloring and every hair was damp curled
from the pools she’d already waded through. But
the most arousing thing about Mistress
Plunketburg was the way she screeched in alarm as
she lifted the buckets off her yoke and the ropes
which had been supporting them wrapped themselves
around her wrists. Around and around, in a
tangled mass, as if each rope was trying to
strangle itself , the buckets falling discarded
to the cave floor, then lying there. And when the
bucket ropes finally finished moving as well,
both of Sirit’s wrists were securely tied up
against the ends of the yoke pole still resting
on her shoulders.

In which matter, she had been served out exactly
as all her companions had been. The whole row of
them were now lashed to their shoulder poles —
in fact, they were all yoked like oxen to their
yokes.

“Grrrr . . . ” Hal’s eyes were bulging almost as
much as his cock at the sight and sound of the
women calling out for explanations. Morgana’s
response was a snarl of anger.

“Be quiet, you bitches. You’ll find out what’s
happening bye and bye.”

She pointed to Plunketburg. “Step forward to
these rocks, climb up them and into the pool.
Don’t worry about your weight, just grab the ends
of your yoke and it will help lift you up.”

By all the Gods, but the witch was right. Indeed,
it was much as Hal had already seen before, when
Morgana had used her broken broomstick to keep
from drowning in the moat. Now the pole across
Sirit’s shoulders seemed possessed of the same
uplifting power, for as she held onto the wooden
ends the woman seemed able to step up over the
pile of rocks as if they scarcely more obstacle
than a stairway.

Hal noted with great joy that the sneering
expression on the young wife’s face had turned to
one of astonishment and fear. But not as
astonished and afraid as she was going to be
within seconds. And she had no idea of all how
much pleasure a certain hidden watcher gained
from watching Sirit being forced down by
Morgana’s remorseless hands pressing on the
wife’s shoulder pole, which suddenly seemed to
have become as heavy as lead instead of lighter
than air.

“Bend forward, your face in the mud and your
knees on either side of the stream.”

Mistress Plunketburg had no choice but to comply.
She sprawled forward, one cheek resting on the
mire as she struggled to keep her nose and mouth
clear, the thin trickle of water which ran over
the rocky barrier directly beneath her body, her
knees deep in the mud on either side of the tiny
stream.

Hal’s lungs felt as if they’d stopped breathing
and would never start again as Morgana also knelt
down, onto one knee, directly behind Sirit
Plunketburg. The witch dabbled her fingers in the
clear water of the stream. Then lifted them up
into the light of the lanterns still burning on
the yoke.

“By the power invested in me by the Great Ones, I
Morgana le Faye, declare you a sister in this
coven assembled under the auspices of Actaeon,
the horned one.”

Morgana’s damp fingers were up between Sirit’s
opened thighs, stroking the lips of the noble
born female’s sex as she cast her spell. There
was a faint spurt of mud from underneath Mistress
Plunketburg’s fallen tresses as the woman made an
involuntary shout out of her half buried mouth.

“Until this coven dissolves, your duty as a
sister is to think only of men, of being
pleasured by them and of pleasuring them in any
way they desire. You will think of nothing else,
you will care for nothing else. Walk into the
pool and wait.”

Hal felt like screeching himself as he fought
like a demon to take his hand off his cock until
there should be female flesh ready to appease it.
But never in his life had he needed to struggle
so hard, especially when Sirit was more or less
lifted up by her yoke pole and then waded out
into the water until she was up to her waist in
it, her eyes shining wide in the lamps hanging
from the pole she was carrying. Whether by the
power of Morgana’s incantations or by that of the
dragon sweat spilt in the pool, some kind of a
strong mood had certainly been aroused in Sirit’s
breast. In fact, in both her breasts, if the
state of her nipples were anything to judge by.

Probably it was fear of Morgana’s likely reaction
to anything which would spoil the ceremony which
enabled Hal to take his fingers away from his
shaft. Fear, and the fact that his body was no
longer wet from the pool water. And, perhaps
above all, that he had to sense to close his eyes
as the rest of the women were each dealt with in
the same way by Morgana, as briskly and
impersonally as a shepherd dosing a flock of
sheep. Time after time it happened, usually
accompanied by feminine cries of outrage, and Hal
knew he could not have watched even one more
woman being inducted into the coven without
sending a jet of spunk shooting through the damp
air.

Instead, he tried to find something else to think
about and lit on the inspired choice of the
question of who was going to have to empty out
the castle shit pots now that the previous pot
emptier had been elevated to the rank of a
resident magician. And since he was that magician
Hal could select anybody he liked to haul the
turd receptacles around, even one of the high
class sons and squires who had made his own life
such a misery when he was the resident shit boy.
The only problem was in deciding which of the
young arseholes most merited the humiliation, and
it was such an almost impossible yet pleasing
puzzle to solve that it nearly took Hal’s mind
off the squeals and cries coming from the other
side of the pool.

But no mortal male could hope to avert his eyes
from such scenes for long. And when Hal looked
again the array of lanterns stretched across the
far side of the pool revealed a scene stranger
than his eyes could readily accept. A mass of
naked women, standing waist deep in the black
depths of the pool, all with their bodies
streaked with mud and with their mouths hanging
open as they bellowed like cows with full udders
waiting to be milked: an idea compounded by the
sight of a rank, no by the Gods, two ranks of
quivering tits. Small ones, pointy ones, just
right for a handful ones, tits that hung down
like overfilled saddlebags, tits high borne and
perky, big tits and a pair of monster sized tits
with Mary Gorlas standing behind them.

And just like the other women, her eyes were wide
open, and she was wailing in despair, tugging in
vain at the ropes at her wrist. Actions which
were perfectly understandable to Hal, knowing
what mind tearing frustration the females must be
suffering because they couldn’t use their fingers
to relieve the all enveloping lust whipped up by
the dragon sweat in the pool. If the witch’s
intention was to raise as much excitement and
frustrated desire in the coven as possible, she
was certainly going the right way about it.

Come to think of it, where was Morgana? And, as
an aside, since the only light inside the cave
was coming from the lamps the women had brought
in, where was Ymir? There was no sign of the
shining beetle now, so where . . .

Hal heard a strange chittering sound, echoed by
another bouncing off the cave walls, as if
animals were calling to each other by gnashing
small sets of teeth. Two otters appeared on top
of the fallen rocks, both pure white, and both
far bigger than any otters Hal had ever seen
before. They slithered down the rocks and across
the mud without a speck of it marring their
pristine furs, then vanished into the dark water.
There was no doubt at all the creatures were
Morgana and Ymir in yet other transformations.

For about a second Hal was completely puzzled,
before he remembered what Ymir had done to
Morgana in Josephine’s drinking trough. Could it
be . . .

Maid Kendra Hundt, seventeen or so, betrothed to
a knight from Lyonesse, wide open blue eyes, a
mass of blonde curls on her head, and suddenly
shrieking as if the pool water around her body
had somehow come to the boil. Arms dipping madly
from side to side, head thrown back, her body
shuddering so violently that Kendra’s neat little
plumpers were slapping against each other like
applauding hands.

Hal might have been the first to realize what was
happening, because he’d seen it done before, but
the white backs of the otters broke the surface
often enough for the other women to quickly
realize that the otters were positioned in front
and behind Kendra. And if at first they believed
the animals were attacking the girl, they soon
realized from her rising cries of ecstasy that
she was being tongued, not bitten. Tongued very
expertly in the warm water from both directions.
Being tongued and lifted to a state of passion
Maid Kendra’s Lyonesse lover had never come with
a giant’s step of achieving for her.

As the watchers’ understanding of the situation
developed a chorus of feminine excitement and
wails of envy echoed over the pool. Two of the
oldest, Rowena Aelfgar and Felice Oxhead, stepped
back onto the mud bank. Hal watched in a state of
near disbelief as fat Felice dropped on her back
and spread her legs wide. Tall, slender Rowena
knelt down, bent forward from her waist, took her
weight on her elbows and forearms and crawled
awkwardly over the prostrate body of Mistress
Oxhead. Within seconds Mistress Aelfgar’s bottom
was twitching frantically as Felice licked her
cunt and Rowena returned the favor between
Felice’s thick thighs.

“Odin!”

Hal couldn’t, just couldn’t stop himself from
putting his fingers on his prick. His fingertips
at least. Because as soon as they touched the hot
flesh sparks flew up and down the entire length
from balls to head.

“Bloody hell . . . ” His fingers were tingling as
if he’d caught a hard flung stone in them. “What
the fuck?”

On the other side of the pool the otters had
emerged to nip at Felice and Rowena’s toes,
biting hard enough to draw blood and to force the
women to stand up and apart again. Both of them
wailed with frustration like starving wolves.

Another pearl of light sprang out from the tip of
Hal’s shaft. Bigger and even more brilliant than
the first one. But this time it didn’t rise. It
hung over the top of his cock in exactly the same
way as the light above Morgana’s head stayed in
the same place. Hal stared at his most intimate
piece of anatomy in total bewilderment, wondering
whether he still had any control over it at all.
Then he lifted up his eyes in response to a
squeal which somehow sounded familiar.

Morgana and Ymir were both nuzzled up to Mary
Gorlas, behind and in front, and both licking her
where the sensation was most felt. Mary was
jumping around as if she was a puppet with a
dozen lunatics all pulling on her strings at
once. As for her outsized udders, it seemed
impossible that so much flesh could swing around
so much without something tearing loose. What the
girl desperately needed was a pair of steadying
hands.

It was an idea which had an impact on Hal’s mind
like poking an hedgehog with a stick. His
thoughts seemed to curl up into a tiny ball and
the brilliant bead hovering above his lap spread
out into a bright white hollow ring which
completely encircled the head of his cock.

“Fur Fria’s sake . . .” Hal mumbled, again
completely astonished at what was happening, let
alone what was causing it

The boy was suddenly aware of how the grunting
and cries inside the smelly interior of the
Devil’s Arsehole had died away. It was like the
audience of a mummer’s play suddenly becoming
lost in a dreamworld as the gaudily dressed
actors stepped out onto the stage. Only this time
the audience was all looking at him. Twelve women
and two otters. All staring at the straining cock
with the halo of shining light around it which
had suddenly appeared in the dark shadows on the
other side of the pool. And the first thing Hal
noted about this audience was that the eyes of
the women staring at his prick were much beadier
and more animal like than those belonging to the
otters.

“Huh… hello, ladies. Huh… this week hasn’t turned
out at all like I expected it too. Have you noticed
that as well?”

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