Tales from the Golden Feather III (m/f)
TALES FROM THE GOLDEN FEATHER, III
THE WEBSTER'S TALE, or HEAVEN AND HELL
another one of those stories
IF YOU'RE UNDER 18 .... AH WELL, YOU KNOW THE DRILL.
When I came down to breakfast the next day, I found several members of the company already there. The forester was sitting by the window, studying the snow as always. I approached him to see if the road had cleared at all, but it had not. The snow lay deep and undisturbed. "Smooth as a maiden's belly," the forester commented, and then looked at me. "You'd know that, I'm sure."
"I do not take your meaning," I said.
"Well, someone was being tickled in here last night -- I heard it." The forester gestured upward. "I went to my door in the middle of the night to see if I could guess where the sound was coming from, and I saw our hostess with a candle, pausing outside your door -- as if she suspected your room of being the source."
I had heard the quiet laughter myself, drifting through the walls, and of course had wondered where it came from -- but it was simultaneously startling and amusing to be named its cause. And I could not help but wonder if our hostess had paused outside my room out of suspicion ... or out of a desire to participate? By her own confession, she was quite ticklish and enjoyed it ....
My thoughts were interrupted when the webster cleared her throat. "If all agree, I will tell today's tale. Yesterday, our holy man told of a woman condemned to hell," she said with a nod to the summoner. "It so happens that I have a story of a woman who also went to hell -- but not without reaching heaven first."
"Go ahead, my good woman," the physician said, and we all assented. So she began:
Once, in a town whose name is too well-known to mention, there lived a poor young actor named Jonathan. He spent his days in the market square, enacting scenes from favorite plays for a few coins, and one day he saw a woman, dressed in the severe black of the Holy Sisters and with a basket on her arm, cross the square. She was tall and fair, like a queen, and also queenly was the way she walked, with her back stiff and her nose high.
By inquiry among the townsmen, he learned that her name was Alyssa, and that she was an orphan who had been raised by the Sisters. Her devoutness and sharp tongue were well known, for there were many men who had thought to make her their own -- only to be coldly rebuffed. But Jonathan was a determined young man, and confident as well, so the next time Alyssa passed through the square, Jonathan left off his performance to approach her and confess his love to her in the most eloquent of terms.
But all his pretty speech earned him was a chilly stare and a frown. "Should I leave a life of holiness to defile myself with a mere player?" Alyssa snapped. "Are you mad?" And she swept past him, her stiff black robe crackling. And this scene was repeated seven times over in the week that passed, with Jonathan trying everything from music to flowers to gifts. But Alyssa would not bend an inch, and she refused him in terms no less abusive every time they met.
Another man might have been crushed and given up the chase. But as if from heaven itself, an inspiration had descended on Jonathan -- an idea of how he might both avenge the insult and bring Alyssa to him.
Leaving the square, he paid a visit to an apothecary friend of his, who provided him with a powder that would produce instant sleep when mixed with water and drunk. He also stopped by an hat-maker's, a fan-maker's, and a tailor's. By then, it was coming on night, so he hurried to the convent of the Sisters, carrying a bag with his purchases.
He slipped into the convent by a forgotten back door and made his way to Alyssa's cell, where he dosed the ewer of water that rested by her bedside with the powder, then retired to a hiding place to wait. Once the Sisters finished their evening prayers and retired to bed, he stole forth and returned to Alyssa's cell, finding her curled up on the bed and fast asleep.
Jonathan took her robe and undergarments from her, folding them and putting them in a corner. Then, working swiftly, he took from the bag several strips of black silk, wadding two and pressing them into her eyesockets, then fastening them in place with another. Four more such strips, one for each wrist and one for each ankle, fastened her limbs to the corners of her bed. That done, only then did he light his lantern and sit back, waiting for her to awake and admiring the contrast between the black cloth and her pale skin.
Soon after, Alyssa's head moved, and she stirred her limbs, finding them immobile. She tried to open her eyes, but saw nothing but blackness. Afraid, she opened her mouth to cry out, but Jonathan reached out and pressed a feather across her mouth, startling her into silence.
"Do not fear, beloved," he said swiftly, making his voice so soft, sweet, and pure that Alyssa would not have believed it his even if she could have seen him speaking. "I am an angel who has long watched you from above, and your beauty and virtue have captured my soul. And I am not the only one who has taken notice. It has been decreed that you be rewarded as few ever have: you are to experience the pleasures of heaven even while living. And it is my privilege to bring you the reward."
"But why am I bound and blindfolded and -- and unclothed?" Alyssa asked. For of course she believed the tale, which appealed to her pride most cleverly. Already she was half imagining herself a saint.
"The pleasures of heaven are so intense that mortal flesh can only barely contain them," Jonathan responded easily, having anticipated the question. "I would not wish you to do yourself an injury." Alyssa shuddered in a mix of anticipation and fear. Jonathan watched the progress of the shudder, all the way down her body, and was so distracted that he almost forgot to answer the other part of her question. "And no ordinary eyes can look on one of my sort, nor is there mortal dress in heaven. Now, beloved, I will bring you as close to heaven as any living woman can go ... "
Setting the lantern on a table, he reached into his bag and drew out two fans made of large feathers with many hairy plumes, of the sort that are in fashion with ladies these days. Opening them, he swept them the length of her beautiful body, from crown to toes. Alyssa shivered and gasped. "Does the feel of my wings please you, beloved?"
"Y-yes," Alyssa responded in a tiny voice.
"It is but the least of what you will feel tonight." And setting aside the fans, Jonathan drew from the bag two stiff white feathers, which the hat-maker had provided him with, and he bent over his vulnerable prisoner. He touched her only with the ends of his fingers and the tips of the feathers, skating them lightly and slowly over her skin. And Alyssa's body, used to feeling nothing more delicate than the coarse cloth of her robes, responded eagerly to the gentle tickling. Having been raised nearly from birth in the severe company of the Sisters, she had never felt the like. Imagine how astonishing a feather's touch on the toes or under the arms must be for someone who has never experienced it before -- both the feeling and the reaction it creates, so out of proportion to the little touch ....
At first Alyssa tried to stifle her giggles and hold still, feeling embarrassed at the thought of spoiling heavenly pleasure with something so base as laughter, but when Jonathan began to softly knead her ribs with his fingertips, she could hold back no longer. "Oh!--heeheehee--aaah!" she burst out, an involuntary shimmy twisting her from side to side. Jonathan stopped tickling as Alyssa bit her lips. "I-I am sorry," she quavered. "But I cannot...It is too much for me!"
"Do what is in your soul to do, beloved," Jonathan said. "There is no pretense in heaven, and your laugh is sweet. Let us hear more of it." And he applied himself to the tickling again, being certain to focus his attentions on those tender ribs.
Believing herself released from the bonds of shame, Alyssa -- for the first time in her life -- gave herself totally up to sensation. She squirmed ecstatically in a way one would never imagine a Sister capable of. And she was silent no longer: giggling and laughing outright, giving shuddering groans of pleasure and little squeals of happy surprise, and begging for more with both her voice and her body. Perhaps a miracle was indeed at work, for none of the Sisters overheard and came to investigate -- or perhaps they did hear, and only smiled at the thought of Alyssa finally enjoying her youth and beauty. It is not always easy to tell what moves a Sister's heart.
I dare say every one of us can imagine what a lovely sight Alyssa was to Jonathan, her bare skin glowing in the soft light of the lantern, wriggling and quivering, laughing and gasping, greedy for the delight his touch brought her. A weaker man might have cast aside the feathers and flung himself on her, covering her in kisses and spoiling the plan entirely for a few seconds' happiness. But Jonathan was not only clever, he was strong of will, and held himself back, tickling her with the utmost care and attention. Not one bit of her went untickled, from the smooth, cool surfaces of her feet, which twitched and flexed when his fingers touched them, to the intricate folds inside her ear, which provoked hysterical giggles and a wild head-shaking when the feather traced them.
But though the teasing was relentless, it never became quite unbearable. Jonathan was exceedingly cautious to keep the tickling within the limits of what he judged she could endure. Whenever her laughter grew shrill, or her squirming approached desperation, he moved on to another part of her body, giving her a chance to recover. Ticklish all over as Alyssa was, there were always plenty of new playfields to choose from. Up her legs and down her torso the angel's touch traveled. And as the game went on, Jonathan saw how the flush in Alyssa's cheeks had spread down her throat and over her chest, how her small breasts had tightened and how a new note had come into her voice, a pleading for something she only barely comprehended. He feathered her puckered nipples, and her her head rolled back as she cried out. He ran his fingertips up one thigh and touched her between the legs, and she jerked and gasped. Probing deeper, he listened with pleasure as the gasps became a constant thin wail, a breathy squeal as her body rose and fell in response to his touch and her own internal drives -- until, suddenly, her body sprang off the bed, arching in the direction of heaven as her eyes went wide under the blindfold ...
Jonathan watched her settle down into the bed, watched her breathing slow and her muscles reluctantly unclench as she gave up her grip on the fading vestiges of pleasure. Then he bent forward and touched the tips of the feathers to her underarms, and the game began again. Alyssa gasped a token protest, but her body was already moving in search of ecstasy again, and the game was played many times over the course of the next few hours.
When he decided she had had enough, Jonathan gave her some of the dosed water to drink, and when she fell asleep, he unbound her and put all his amorous tools back in the sack, leaving only a single pure white feather lying on her belly, lest she think her experience was only a happy dream. The feather was the first thing Alyssa saw when she came to wakefulness again, still nude and tingling all over. She stared at it for a moment, then blushed furiously and concealed it under her pillow before hastily dressing.
Jonathan visited Alyssa again the next night, and the next, and each time, she giggled, purred, and moaned her way to heaven. So delightful did Alyssa find these rewards that, when Jonathan came to her cell the fourth night, he found that she had already stripped herself, blindfolded herself, and laid herself out with limbs spread, ready for the bonds, all before falling asleep. He smiled at the sight and traced the insides of her thighs with the feathers until she stirred and begged her "beloved angel" to bind her swiftly so she could give herself fully over to the bliss of heaven once more. Charmed by her naive eagerness, Jonathan lingered almost until sunrise, lavishing pleasure on her at such length that she thought she might faint or even perish on the spot. He was nearly caught slipping out when the Sisters arose for their morning prayers -- and as for Alyssa, she overslept for the first time in her life, finally being roused from her bed by the irritated Housemother around noon.
Even the Housemother's scolding could not mar her mood, and she drifted down to town wrapped in a sensuous daydream. But in town, a rude awakening awaited her, for Jonathan made sure to encounter her in the town market. She tried to evade him, but he cornered her and asked her once more to reconsider his offer of love. Staring at him with icy contempt, she burst out, "Have you heard nothing of what I say to you? Even if you were the finest man on earth, which you are not, I would have nothing to do with you -- for an angel has chosen me as his beloved! How can any dirty, fumbling mortal man hope to equal what he can give me?" And Jonathan had to put a hand over his mouth to hide his smile as she stormed past, back straighter and nose higher in the air than ever.
But this was no more than Jonathan had expected. Once again, that night, he slipped into the convent, but this time he made certain to treat each of the other Sisters' water ewers so they should sleep through the night undisturbed. Only Alyssa received the usual dosage, and while she was unconscious, Jonathan prepared her with particular care.
Imagine Alyssa's surprise when she awoke. She was in the familiar position once more, but this time Jonathan had bound her so she lay on her stomach. She lifted her head and peered around blindly, but the silk shrouded her in total darkness.
"Beloved ... ?" she asked, a quaver in her voice.
"Pride is a sin," snarled Jonathan in a harsh voice completely unlike the one he had used to play the angel. "Because of it, you insulted a worthy man and boasted arrogantly of your angelic lover. Until you recant that sin, you are denied heaven. Instead, tonight you are MY plaything and I bring to you the torments of hell!" And he pounced on her defenseless form.
After several nights of practice, Jonathan had a very good idea of where the many vulnerabilities of Alyssa's body lay -- and how best to exploit them. He had previously brought her to a near-frenzy on several occasions merely by gently stroking his fingers over the soft skin of her ribs -- so now, when he dug his fingers in, it was scarcely a surprise to see her buck like an unbroken horse as a madwoman's laugh burst from within her. When the "angel" had only touched the arch of one foot with a feather, Alyssa had let loose a sudden squeal and jerked wildly, so Jonathan had avoided that spot afterward -- until now, as he thoroughly and with relish subjected each arch not only to feather tips, but quill points and scrabbling fingernails while Alyssa yowled and tried to kick her bound legs. He had never before touched her under the arms with his fingers, only with feathers -- and she quickly discovered that while one touch there was a squirmy pleasure, five touches were misery. It is small wonder she thought she was truly in the hands of a vengeful demon.
As if the merciless tickling were not bad enough, the demon also spanked her upturned rump and the backs of her thighs with hard hands until her tears had soaked the pillow even as the sweat running off her body soaked the sheets under her. In vain did she screech for mercy and plead for her lover to save her. Such outbursts were met only with the demon's rasping, cruel laugh and fingers that burrowed deep into her rib cage, stealing both breath and speech from her. She felt dizzy and on the verge of fainting, but no matter how much she might hope for oblivion, there was nothing for her but the torturing fingers.
But worst of all ... the demon's merciless attentions still, somehow, excited her as her angel's caresses had. But where the angel had gently brought her to one climax after another, the demon gave her no release. The gnawing need grew and grew and went unfulfilled. The only part of her body the demon left untouched was where she most wanted to be touched. All she received there was the occasional whisper-light graze of a feather, which left her sobbing in frustration as her desire burned even hotter. Jonathan, for his part, had no desire to harm her, but he could not help enjoying this revenge after all the days she had scorned him. So it was not difficult for him to harden his heart against her plaintive wails for mercy.
At the end of what seemed like an eternity for Alyssa, the demon finally released her trembling body. "Such is the fate of the proud," he snarled in her ear. She would not drink the water, so Jonathan simply blew out the lantern, untied one arm and one leg, and hastily made his exit while she was fumbling with the bonds.
When Jonathan approached Alyssa the next day in the market, the sufferings of the night before were foremost in her mind. So she bit back her cold, proud response and greeted him civilly, even managing a smile. That night, her sleep was undisturbed, and upon waking in the morning she realized with a sigh of relief that by refusing to indulge her pride, she had earned her freedom from the demon. If she further displayed a proper humility, she reasoned, her trips to heaven would resume. So the next day, she made a point of seeking out Jonathan to speak politely with him, and in the course of their conversation, she finally began to notice that he was young and well-favored, and spoke eloquently. When they parted, she found herself looking forward to speaking with him again ...
It was not too long later that Alyssa finally left the house of the Sisters to become Jonathan's wife. Though Alyssa was downhearted for a few days after the wedding, sad for the holy life she had given up and for her lost angel, her spirits were greatly improved when she discovered that her husband knew the secret of sending her to heaven, and at her request he took her there nearly every night.
Once the webster had finished her tale, there was much discussion and argument, for some of us held that Jonathan had been overly cruel, while others believed he had done no more than what had been necessary. All, though, agreed that it had been a good story, save the summoner, who scowled and muttered about disrespect toward the religious. The rest of us, however, could not take him seriously.
That evening, before we retired, it was the soldier who arose to address the company. "If you allow it, I'll tell my tale tomorrow. I haven't much skill at the telling of stories, so I might as well get it over with." We all assented to this, and once again went up to our rooms, not without certain glances back and forth whose meaning I could not quite divine ...
NEXT: The Soldier's Tale, or The Mysterious Island.
NR: Charles Palliser, The Unburied