The Fifth Path (9/30)

The First Draft of the Autobiography of Baal Uras, Soon to be 28th King of the True Land

Running Title: Journey Round the World: A Thousand Different Shores

Composed Aru 2nd In the 59th Year of Baal Shamas

Chapter 7: The Yon Xar Pass

As we traveled further into the Xexan territory, the beauty and majesty of the surroundings was breathtaking. A true survey of that place would describe the sweeping vistas and well run farms, the perfect fusion of the natural with the constructed, and the industry and creativity that went into its construction. Unfortunately, I can give you no such survey, for my mind was focused not upon these beauties and utilities, but was rather consumed with a strange passion. I must again, for what must seem like the hundredth time, admit weakness here. In our own culture, men and women both, cover their bodies as best they can, leaving only their face exposed as the vehicle for their expression. The rest of the body is reserved for ones eventual husband or wife. It is both a protection against temptation, and a protection against those who have succumbed, that this covering provides.

Since departing on my journey, I have seen many styles which have been much more loose, much less interested in protecting the propriety of those who adopt them. It has slowly dawned on me, as I have traveled, that perhaps, in some cultures, marriage is not a prerequisite for physical intimacy, and that it might actually not be considered morally wrong to engage in such activities outside of that structure. This realization was mostly hypothetical at first, and in retrospect. I had not fully actualized this thought until our short period of entrapment on the Green Sea. With the thought fully actualized however, the skin revealed by the outfits of the other cultures changed in tone. They were not meant to attract me into a marriage that I would never be willing to enter into, but instead were hints of the possibility of physical intimacy outside of that, a suggestion of a willingness to engage in such acts if I might be willing. Having never considered the possibility of such acts outside of marriage, my mind became afire with the possibilities, the fact that I could make such a choice easily, with little chance of danger to myself or of discovery. The movements and actions of some of the Xexan women in the port town only enhanced this, and the clear view of the shoulders, arms, and lower legs of my Protector, who, while I had always considered her appearance adequate, now, with the scope of possibilities open in my mind, I understood to be in fact, incredibly beautiful. Her tackle of me when she was defending me from the sound of explosions had resulted in extended contact with her exposed skin, and the general feel of the shape of her body. None of this had helped my present condition.

My mind was untrained in defense from such thoughts, and so, as we walked in silence through the rolling hills outside the port city, I was, in my mind, imagining many things I had thought unimaginable, and mentally committing the deeds that I had so recently condemned my companions for considering during our trapped period on the Green Sea. My mind was so occupied by this new diversion, that I must admit, gentle reader, that I might very well have tripped and fallen several times, if the very cause of my condition had not been there to catch and steady me. I do believe she was worried for my health, and my inability to meet her gaze must have only added to her suspicions. The result of this was of course that my Protector stayed every closer to me, and occasionally reached out to touch me, and the cycle continued. By the time night fell, and we set up camp, I all but leaped for the privacy of my own tent.

Unfortunately for me, the crazy old man that was guiding this expedition apparently thought that one person tents were dangerous, and that it was better to be on a two person tent system. You shall never guess who my tent companion was. I curled up, inches away from the woman my mind had been undressing all day, doing my best not to listen to her breathing, and imagine how her body moved because of it. Truly, I was a pathetic sight. If you, gentle reader, are perhaps disgusted by these descriptions, then you are in a right place with Bel. I am afraid however, that in order to give a fair an accurate account of my travels, I will be forced to describe such feelings and thoughts further as the story goes on. Be prepared and think carefully so that my failings my at least be a lesson to you. I am not proud of my thoughts in the coming days, but neither will I deny them.

I was freed from my torment by a terrible cry. My Protector was up in a flash, telling me to stay in the tent, but I ignored her, eager for a distraction from my current train of thought. I looked out at the surroundings, trying to see the source of the commotion. It was a little hard to see, because it was out in the dark, but the noise made it easy to find. A human shape, presumably my Scholar, was surrounded by, and being attacked by a large number of small, maybe foot or two long, creatures, the nature of which was hard to see in the dark. Our crazy old guide shouted for someone to get a light near the battle, then drew out an incredibly long bow from somewhere or another. Seeing as I was closer to the tent, I rushed inside, grabbed a torch, lit it in the fire, then charged in to save my danger attracting Scholar.

When I got close, and with the light of the torch, I was able to see the creatures plain. They looked like rats, but huge and furry, with incredibly large, gnashing teeth. They scattered a bit from the light at first, but returned again, leaping and biting at both me and my Scholar. I swung the torch like a club, realizing in that moment that I really really should have grabbed my axe as well, and did my best not to get gnawed to bits. My Scholar was already bleeding in several places, but seemed to be still fighting, which was better than he had done the last time we had been in a fight together. As the frantic beating back of the giant rats continued, I heard the whistle of arrows, and one by one the creatures went down. They seemed to notice the falling of their companions and broke ranks to flee, but my Protector had run around to the other side to cut them off, and soon all but one of the rat creatures were crushed by her dual maces. The one almost managed to escape into the darkness, but one more arrow by the elderly guide ended that swiftly enough.

With the excitement over, our guide rushed over with another torch and began examining my Scholar. He explained that the bite of the creatures could cause infection very easily and that any cuts or scraped needed to be specially cleaned and treated with an herb we had bought in town. He began work on my Scholar right away, and instructed my Protector to check me out. This of course necessitated her inspecting my body and touching me a fair bit, and when it turned out that some of my clothes had been torn or ripped in the fight, also involved me taking off my shirt and pants so that she could look at me and check for scratches more easily. And when she found them, she was instructed to clean them, and lets just say that my mind did not exactly stay pure, and without heavy clothing, that became somewhat obvious. To my Protector’s credit, she commented not at all, and acted as if she had not noticed.

We got a quick explanation of what the creatures were and what they were called from the elder after all the wounds were treated. My Scholar wrote it down, but I am afraid I have a hard time remembering or even pronouncing many of the Xexan words. Apparently the creatures hunt in packs, and specifically target sleeping things so they can kill them before they wake up. Its why keeping a guard is so important, because their ability to wound or kill is much greater if their target is on the ground sleeping compared to standing up. The elder congratulated my Scholar for having spotted them, but warned that going out into the dark alone like that was usually not the best plan, and that sounding the alarm or throwing out a torch to see, might have been a better plan. My Scholar took this advice with a nod and a wince. He had been bit in a number of places, and had several bandages covering his body. All of this served as something of a distraction for the short time it lasted but then it was time to return to sleep. Thankfully my Protector volunteered to go next, so I would have a chance to go to sleep without listening to her breathing. But, all the same, when we were both in the tent for a bit, as she readied herself for the watch duty, she caught my eye, and gave me a little smile, and I knew I was doomed. I felt my own face redden, and I averted my gaze down, unfortunately straight towards her body, which caused me to look away again after slightly too long of a pause in eye movement. She walked out with an extra spring in her step.

For those of you readers, who come from more conservative locations then the capital city, where men and woman truly do not interact in a physical way at all before marriage, I shall explain. The courtship dance of the Baal and those other high ranking officials of the city is arcane and nuanced. But what I had done, my physical reaction, my reddened face, my inability to meet her gaze in response to her smile, all pointed towards me being very interested in marriage. Her smile was an indicator that she was considering accepting, but that I would need to prove myself further. I was trapped in a number of ways.

Were I to respond negatively at this point, to reject her, or appear disinterested after I was the one to apparently initiate the ritual would be the height of rudeness. It would ruin our relationship completely, effectively indicating that I had been playing with her emotions, and make the rest of this year impossibly awkward. On the other hand, if I explained the signals were unintentional, I would have to admit that I had had such thoughts with no intention to marry. This would be even worse. She would consider me corrupted by the outside world, or trying to take advantage of her. What then of simply failing to meet her qualifications intentionally? Were we equals, and I not her leader and Baal, that would be perhaps the best choice, but in the courtly dances of the capital, the rejector forever has some level of power over those they reject, assuming that it is due to failure to meet expectations instead of simple lack of interest. My authority over her would be compromised and our relationship would forever be balanced in her favor. Considering the difficulties I had already had with my other companion in this regard, I did not want to have my authority any more usurped.

As we narrow down the options, this leaves only to the option of proving myself to her, and our eventual marriage. Which, as I explained before, is politically impossible. But, that last option was the only one I could do that would not result in something terrible results immediately, so for the time being, that would be the path I would have to pursue, hoping that something might come up to present an additional option. Considering my state of mind at the time, this path also seemed the best from an emotional level. The downside of course was that, during this part of the courtship ritual our relationship would be even more slanted in her favor then even being rejected would have put it. I would have to trust her to keep that private, and not publicly utilize this advantage however, because doing so would be incredibly detrimental to my already fragile relationship with my Scholar.

As all of these realizations and thoughts swirled through my head, they managed to distract me enough from their original source that I was at last able to get to sleep, though unfortunately, I was still filled with something of a warm glow even as I slept. As I had said before, I was doomed.

She, of course, woke me up for the next watch a while later, once again giving me the smile that I could not meet, and even going so far as to stretch suggestively while I was gathering my gear for watch duty. When she started to strip down before getting into bed, I was forced to flee the tent, not even having collected my torch. This of course led to her coming out a bit later, only wrapped in blankets, to give me my torch and lecture me about being prepared for watch. I nodded along meekly, unable to meet her gaze, but not wanting to not look at her for fear of seeming disrespectful towards her assistance. As such, I stared at her barely covered body while she spoke to me with increasing playfulness and smugness. I needed to do something to preserve my dignity if I did not want to lose all of my authority, but when I tried to speak up, I looked into her eyes for a second, forgot what I was going to say, and looked back down at her feet. That was it. I was done for. Socially I could do nothing against her at that point. She held every card. The responsible thing for her to do in that situation, considering how our dynamic was supposed to work, would have been to try and rebalance the equation somehow, give me back a little of my dignity. Instead she went in for the kill. She patted me on the head like a child, brought my face up so I had to look her in the eye, and forced me to nod that I understood. I watched her swagger into the tent like a love sick puppy. She had me, completely.

Its a good thing no more of the rat creatures came while I was on watch, because I would have been useless. I was in fact, as it turned out, a love sick puppy. I ended up staying through the whole night, never waking up the elder for his turn, and the whole time I was thinking about my Protector, nominally trying to figure out a way to normalize or end this, but repeatedly returning to thinking about her body and voice, or considering the social dynamic and slowly feeling its effects seep through my mind, changing my decision making process, giving her more and more control as I thought through the scenario again and again. And because even that was interspersed occasionally with thoughts of her

skin and her way of speaking, which was, in my state, quite pleasurable, the social dynamic began to feel that way as well. Which of course, only added to the spiral, because as soon as her absolute control became pleasurable, my plans to figure a way out became less and less spirited, and the thoughts of that control began to loop in on themselves, pleasure begetting pleasure.

When it was her who woke up early, and found me still awake, long after I was supposed to have been asleep, the situation only got more dire for me and my dignity. She had the decency to at least pull me into the tent so that the other members of our party would not see or hear, but then she once again lectured me, but this time she dropped all pretense of not having complete authority. She kept telling me to look her in the eyes, something I could not do for more than a second, and resulted in me turning very red and loosing track of the conversation entirely, which made it worse, because she kept quizzing me, to make sure I understood what was happening, and why it was important for me to swap out for guard duty and get enough rest. When I failed, she would shake her head, and repeat it again, very slowly. She would of course require me to look her in the eyes when I tried to answer her questions the second time, and the cycle would continue.

At some point, after she apparently decided she had had enough of that kind of fun, and I was barely even able to speak, my entire body burning with embarrassment and desire, she took it to the next level. She grabbed my head, preventing me from looking down. I was acutely aware that she was the same height as me, though in that moment she felt much taller. I still tried to look down, but she spoke softly to me, telling me to look in her eyes, again and again, till I could do nothing else. I looked, trapped and caught in them now that I couldn’t look away. Then she asked me a question. She asked me if I liked this. She asked me if I enjoyed her power. My mind raced. This was outside the script, outside even the most esoteric levels of the courtship dance. There was no proscribed answer here, nothing I could fall back on. I could reject the question, reject this advance as going too far, and thus save myself from this situation. It was the right thing to do, the hidden out that I had been hoping for. I tried to think, tried to compose that response, to summon the righteous indignation and the haughty tones that would put this hired Protector, this common girl in her place. But I was looking into her eyes. I couldn’t even imagine anger, or a haughty tone. That I was her Baal seemed impossible in that moment, the dynamic completely wrong. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, could not get myself in the right frame of mind.

So then my next choice had to be to say no. She would understand that this relationship couldn’t continue like this, that this was too much, the power dynamic too extreme. My signals had put me in a position to defer to her lightly while I sought to prove myself. This was beyond that. This was untenable. But even as I tried to speak that short simple word, my mouth dried up, my tongue would not move. The feelings in my body and mind were too much, to enjoyable and extreme. You must understand I had, before that very day, never so much as lingered my eyes on a woman. I had no experience. I couldn’t deny myself this, the truth was that I did enjoy it, and I did not want it to stop. So at last, I turned to yes, as my only choice, and even then I held out hope that I could at least speak it with dignity, if such an admittance could contain such a thing. In that too I failed. I tried to speak it surely, to maintain the gaze into her eyes, their pale green engulfing all of my vision. But I couldn’t. My eyes fell to her mouth, and my voice stuttered my reply, a yes with an almost begging to it.

Her mouth was for a moment, a hard line. She was considering her response. If I could look up into her eyes, my training would be able to tell me what she was thinking, give me a clue to her reaction. But of course I couldn’t. I was instead forced to guess based on small changes in her mouth. The hint of a frown at first. I had disappointed her perhaps. Slight opening of the mouth. Maybe she was considering the implications. Curl upward at the corner. Amusement. A purse of the lips. She had made a decision. She spoke then. A simple acknowledgment, only a few words, light and cheery. It seemed almost inappropriate for the gravity of the situation. Her amused grin was more appropriate however as it followed a second after, conveying all the dominance and smug enjoyment her voice had lacked. Then, she threw tradition and decency out the window, and kissed me, forcefully and aggressively.

I melted before it, my righteous indignation and sense of propriety like candles before a hurricane. My legs gave out, and she caught me, holding me to her as all of my resistance and will seemed to spill out, my mind seemingly unable to worry about limbs, when it could instead experience the kiss and the feel of her arms around me. I did not even notice as she moved us slowly while the kiss continued, but then she let me go, and I fell down hard, expecting to crash into the ground, but instead falling comfortably into my blankets and onto my pillow. Then she left the tent, telling me, as she did so, to pull myself together for the long day ahead, and inquiring if I might be a gentlemen and pack up the tent, as well as carry her things that day. The thought of doing otherwise didn’t even cross my mind. All visions of reversing this dynamic or exercising my authority as her Baal over her were gone. I did as instructed.

The next several days likely included a number of exciting events, lessons learned, cultures to observe, and plenty of interesting scenery, but I truly remember none of it. That the old man and my Scholar did not suspect a thing during that time is a credit only to my Protector, who took to her authority easily, speaking for me deftly, explaining away my muted, distant reactions by explaining I had troubles sleeping, and generally keeping us all on track, while doing both her job and mine. She was the perfect Protector while with the others, acting deferential to me, making sure that the others did as well, and generally acting like none of what I have just described occurred. In the night, and the morning, when we were alone in the tent however, it was different indeed. It is only thanks to her own good judgment that we did not become consummated in those nights. We never progressed much past kissing, though mostly we did not even do that, only when she felt the desire for it. It was mostly talking, her authority and command making sharp contrast to my soft deference and stuttering submission.

Now however, it is the night before we will reach the capital of Xexan. I will be meeting with the rulers of this nation on morrow, and I will need all of my elegance and eloquence if I am to walk away with the agreements that I need to complete my quest. I wonder if I can do that in my current state. It was with those thoughts in mind that I waited in my tent, writing so as to express my thoughts to myself. Even as I finished my experiences, I knew not what to do.

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