A devotion to the dark sun goddess

TW: BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism, masochism), power imbalance, mind control, flogging, religious ritual, hieros gamos, humiliation, FemDom

The man found them the same way a hundred generations of his forefathers had done: by following the path that blazed in his mind as he dreamed, the only answer to the dark longing that burgeoned in his twisted soul. He was weak and trembling from the force of his hunger by the time he rang the bell that hung at the threshold to Her temple, and winced at the stern, clarion peal — or perhaps not from the sound itself, but fear of what it portended.


The Goddess did not grant an audience to all who invoked Her. Some seekers were still half-blind with lust for the world, and did not truly understand the salvation She offered. To them, Her only answer could be silence.


Yet Soris Astrid had dreamed of this man for days — longer, in fact, than she’d expected him to take in coming. Only this morning had she sensed his return planetside and realized he’d been further away than she anticipated, perhaps in deep space.


Likely as not he was one of the asteroid miners who voyaged offworld for months at a stretch. He was one of the faithful, though, and as anxious as Astrid herself for his devotion to be received, so she’d quickly enlisted Soris Caelestia to be her second — the precaution most priestesses took when serving as Her vessel.


Supplicants were nothing if not strong of mind; a priestess needed to be stronger, and it never paid to be incautious, Goddess knew. Caelestia was young but wiser than her green years belied, and Astrid trusted her as she would’ve a fullblooded sister.


Astrid still smelled the rosewater of her purification bath emanating from her body like heat, and her dark amber skin tingled from the vigorous scrubbing she’d given it. The braids in her oiled mahogany hair were intricate, a fractalline pattern of twisting coils and complex knots. A priestess was always an emissary of Her divinity, and though the Goddess kept her body healthy and free of corruption, Astrid took pains to ensure she looked every bit the part as the man approached.


The mercurial silver silk of Astrid’s dress glimmered under light from the lanterns that burst to life as she swirled her fingertips. As a child in Voltaia, her grandmother had taught her to knit; the Goddess’s magic was little different, cast from fingertips instead of wooden needles.


Of course, her grandmother would have been appalled at the secrets the Goddess had revealed to Astrid. Even now, standing here on the massive slab-stone steps before Her subterranean temple, she could see the woman’s wrinkled face as though it was before her again, contorted in horror that long-ago day when Astrid had accidentally gashed herself on the spindle, and everything had changed.


The day the Goddess claimed her.


A flare of longing drew Astrid back to the present, and she regarded the stranger as he stared across the footbridge at her, her mind awash with his emotions. It usually took supplicants a moment to adjust as they finally beheld their dreams made manifest; it was a glamour, of course, like the path itself, but the Goddess’s mercy protected the Dark Sisters.


Without her blessing, this whole place simply would simply seem like the wall of a crude underground passage, impenetrable to sight or touch. But wherever humanity had spread through the stars, places like this could be found bearing Her name, distinct yet still similar in their impossibility, like ethereal, architectural sisters.


Astrid regarded the man coolly as his gaze flickered over her body. The bodice, though simply cut, clung to her full curves and then flared over her hips, hiding what lay beneath. Between the lanterns and the luminescent firemoss that lined the carved greystone edifice, she and Caelestia — who wore the traditional midnight violet gown of a second — must seem like mirages of his rising lust.


Even as the thought occurred to Astrid she felt a heightening sensation flowing from the man, as though he was a hunting bow that had been drawn too sharply. The force of his need made her sex throb with the heat of a newborn star; it was perverse indeed to feel pleasure at pain, but that was the mark of the Goddess’s favor.


Still, Her favor was only half the equation — the other half was the priestess’ own piety, her inner strength. Only elite priestesses with true tenacity of will could be trained in the art of receiving devotions. A special sect of the Order — an arm called the Beacon — was tasked with finding those in need and guiding them to the best-suited priestesses, those strong enough to keep their supplicants in thrall.


Her knees near to trembling with the force of the man’s desire, Astrid knew she would need every ounce of her strength today.


The man quickly crossed the footbridge over the softly glowing moat and dropped to his knees before Astrid. It was always so magical, that moment of seeing a face with her own eyes that she’d only ever seen before in dreams.


Though the Goddess’s own were of every age and look, she was secretly pleased at the man’s sharp, cunning features, his lean strength, like a seasoned predator. He was at least a full head taller than she was, and probably had more than a fair few roots of Neopersian blood in him.


An asteroid miner, then, certainly. She didn’t even need to taste his aura, let alone read his mind, to sense it.


Astrid hadn’t realized she was broadcasting her thoughts to her companion until Caelestia’s agreement flickered warmly at the edge of her mind. You know what that means, sister.


Indeed she did — and another wave of desire swept through her, this one entirely her own. The descendants of the first terraformers were known to be savage lovers, capable of ravaging their companions utterly. Perhaps that was why the Beacon had guided the man to her, matching them like puzzle pieces.


Would that the Goddess could trust me with such an offering.


Astrid reached out and brushed the man’s coal-dark hair, surprised at its sleekness. He wore the riveted clothing and gravboots favored by spacers, and a fine powder of crushed rock clung to him despite what appeared to have been earnest attempts to rid himself of it. Rough-edged and hurried as he was, he still cared to make himself presentable to the Goddess; that bode exceedingly well for whatever devotion he might offer.


Astrid heard her voice echo through the subterranean chamber, both a soft whisper and an iron-edged command — Her voice. “The Goddess would know your name, traveler.” 


The man’s obsidian-black eyes sent a shockwave of lust through Astrid as he lifted his gaze to hers. She hadn’t even glamoured herself, but he found her face and body pleasing — what he could see of it, which was frustratingly little, evidently.


A thrill of irritation passed through him as they stared at each other. “Kader Zayn, priestess.”


Shards of azure light broke into being around Kader, haloing him in a deceptively languid dance. For the penitent it was a breathtaking display of the Goddess’s power; for those who sought to deceive their way into her sanctuary, each shard was a razor.

Astrid had only seen their lethal dance twice in her lifetime, the hundred petals turning a hellish red as they rent the unworthy to their despair. Divine mercy was not infinite — and Astrid was relieved as the floating shards stayed azure, pulsing calmly about Kader like a sleeper’s breaths.


She pitched her voice carefully to disguise the sympathetic ache of lust in her belly as the man’s gaze dropped lower, to the rich swell of her breasts. He seems to’ve reached us just in time. “How long has it been since your last devotion, Kader?”


The man’s voice was surprisingly calm for the disquiet he was feeling, like honeyed stone, as he looked back up at her. “Seventeen months.”


“And have you transgressed?”


Astrid let her own eyes narrow in suspicion as she regarded the spacer. Surely he knew the Goddess was a cruel mistress to those who would feign betray her. Better reveal the truth now, at the proper time, than try to hide from her inevitable discovery; She would flay his mind for such a trespass.


Tendrils of Kader's ink-dark hair slipped between Astrid’s fingers as he unconsciously shook his head. “No.”


“Open your mind to the Goddess,” Astrid commanded softly, and Kader stayed resolutely still as her fingertips moved to his temples.


His mind opened easily enough at her touch, and it was as she had supposed. His recent deployment had been one of the longest he’d ever endured, and while a dull voyage, he had been plagued by nightmares toward the end of it as the Goddess’s mercy slipped from him for a time. It had been a lucky thing he’d found no prey among his companions, or else he might've fallen from Her grace completely.


Not while I serve Her, Astrid vowed privately. Caelestia had by now drawn up the typical mental wards allowing for sequestration between comrades — and Astrid was grateful as a new surge of lust spread within her, tendrils of warmth unfurling throughout her body.


She cupped Kader's darkly stubbled jawline, pressing lightly so that his skin buzzed like a live wire. The connection between them would be strong, his offering robust.


“Do you vow to confess yourself completely to the Lady of Shadows, the Dark Sun Goddess, Queen of the Underworld? Do you devote yourself to Her grace — body, mind, and soul — for your salvation?”


“I do,” Kader half-growled, and Astrid’s fingers trembled with the desperate edge hidden beneath his words. “May She take what She will from me.”


The Goddess accepted his submission, and Astrid’s skin prickled with sudden fire. The Lady was bidding Astrid accept Kader, and the mortal woman embraced him with her mind, enfolding his will within her own and then testing the connection by nudging him to his feet.


The spacer rose easily at her mental touch, accompanying her up the wide slab steps and past the simple arched entryway.


To all travelers the temple’s inner sanctum appeared the same: a large, high-ceilinged circular chamber that held a stone-and-glowmoss hearth, and a shadowed pool in the far corner that burbled with the current of an underground spring. Anything else could be conjured or woven as needed.


Series of curved, interweaving designs had been scored into the greystone floor when this place was first sanctified, and Astrid gestured to a place before the hearth where all the lines converged in a sweeping circle.


A sigh of relief slipped from the dark man as he seated himself, and with another flicker of her fingers Astrid wove a sphere around him, preserving him from time long enough to build her wards.


Now that it was safe to speak freely Caelestia reëmerged through the veils, her pale eyes wide with astonishment. “He’s a fighter, Astrid — don’t underestimate him!”


“I know,” Astrid muttered as she wove spells of binding around the spacer’s vulpine frame. The deeper bonds would require time to activate, but at least now she’d have immediate defenses in case he turned on her.


Not that she expected such behavior from a genuine supplicant, but back in the earliest days of the priestesshood there had been more than a few close calls. At their worst, supplicants could be nothing but rutting animals, demanding that which might be given freely should they only ask.


She could feel Kader's essence rebelling against her as she wove the spell-wards tighter about him, reinforcing the bindings until they glowing about his wiry frame like ethereal ropes. His instinctive resistance now was to be expected; supplicants were at war with themselves, and — intrinsically — such souls could not be expected to understand surrender as anything but weakness.


This was the Goddess’s mercy, Her road to redemption for would-be sinners.


Caelestia fidgeted, growing anxious as Astrid adjusted some of the more delicate spellcasting. “Sister, is this really the time for an elaborate conjuring?”

A wan smile teased the corner of Astrid’s mouth as she regarded the spacer’s features, now relaxed as though in slumber. It brought to mind ancient Earth legends of sleeping princes who could be wakened with a kiss.


It would have to be one hell of a princess to withstand this one, she thought grimly, and refined her bonds with a half-dozen more intricate hand-sigils that had taken her a decade to master. “There’s always time enough for the Goddess’s mercy, Caelestia.”


Astrid’s violet-clad sister nodded, appropriately chastened, and tightened a few of her own bonds — the secondary safety net that would protect Astrid should her own wards fail. The illusion of freedom could be as important in a devotion as the need for the priestesses’ own safety; though bright and clear as frozen lightning to the two dark sisters, the bonds often needed to be nigh-invisible to the devotee, both in form as well as function.


When Astrid was satisfied the dark-eyed spacer would have as much liberty as could be reasonably allowed, she nodded to Caelestia.


“Goddess be with you, sister,” the younger priestess blessed her quietly — and with a series of sigils that made her fingers dance, Caelestia once more shrouded herself from sight.


Astrid let out her breath in a shaky gust. Caelestia was near enough that she would know if anything was amiss, but she was several layers of reality-veils away now, effectively in another dimension. Astrid was finally alone with the man.


Even time-shackled as he was, Astrid could feel the craving emanating from Kader like ripples from a stone cast into water. She knelt before him cautiously, mindful lest her control be swept away in the torrent of emotions he’d been suppressing these last weeks.


The priestess cupped the spacer’s temples with tender fingers, and a gasp slipped from her as she tasted his aura with her mind. It was as crazed a vortex as she’d suspected, his true form concealed behind a tenuous mask of social graces — but the wards suppressing his urges since his last devotion had greatly decayed during the long voyage through space.


His inner devilkin snarled at her gentle incursions, roused like a bloodthirsty creature. He would be a challenge, and no mistake.


Astrid delighted in a challenge.


She swept through his mind like a wraith, noting a few images that might prove useful. Certainly Caelestia was correct in thinking this wasn’t the time for overelaborate spellwork, but a truly deep offering required an equally deep devotion, one that would open the man to Her — and Astrid — completely.


Kader was far from displeased to be offering his devotion to Astrid herself, and she allowed herself a modest swell of pride at his not-inaccurate imaginings of her naked body. His flavor of perversions were well in hand for her, and she lingered idly on his raw, primal urge to fill her naked sex with his essence. That can be arranged.


When she was ready, Astrid woke the spacer as gently as she could, easing him back into the timestream so seamlessly that he probably didn’t even notice he’d been asleep. Other priestesses chose to begin their devotions with the petitioner already firmly in Goddess’s grasp, but Astrid preferred to begin slowly, deepening supplicants so gradually that they couldn’t discern vision from waking. That yielded the strongest offerings, she’d found — and she caught a flicker of surprise in Kader's abyssal gaze as she extended a hand to him, bidding him stand again.


“Is this it?” he asked, not unkindly, as he rose to his feet. The pads of his fingers were rough with callouses, and Astrid’s knees wobbled, her clit throbbing at the thought of rough caresses from such a man.


“We shall begin here.” She languidly moved behind him, reaching up to slip his jacket from his shoulders. His torso was slim but powerful, and he regarded her with a shadowcat’s wariness as she completed her circuit of him. “The rest will come in time.”


Kader laughed mirthlessly, his dark eyes moving over her frame. “So if I wanted to have you and be done with it…”


“Only fools test the Goddess’s love,” Astrid answered evenly, fighting the lustful haze that was overtaking the spacer’s senses. His need for her was growing by the second, strengthening the feedback loop between them.


She could sense his awareness of the thin tie that held her dress shut. It was such a delicate thing — and beneath it was everything he craved, all he needed do was rip it open…


“Then do it, fool,” she challenged him.


The dark man reacted with the speed of a tensed panther, thoroughly unaware that she’d spoken in answer to his unvoiced thought. He’d barely lunged before he was caught in Astrid’s web, his own body turned spellbound traitor, twitching faintly as the wards held him.


“So that’s your trick, then.” Kader's voice was equal parts snarl and howl, and his laughter chilled Astrid’s blood. “You think you can hold me, priestess?”


“Yes,” she replied simply. Even at his fiercest he was no match for her, Goddess be thanked. Accepting his devotion would be a unique pleasure, particularly if he continued to struggle so prettily.


He strove against her like a wildcat, his body trembling with the effort of trying to overwhelm her, but Astrid’s wards were too powerful, imbued as they were with the Goddess’s grace.


The spacer’s thwarted rage was fearsome from being repressed for so long, and he fell to his knees, shuddering, as his mutinous fury spent itself into a simmering dudgeon.


She had seen it a hundred times — the wordless madness, a man’s aura churning to a veritable thunderhead around him. It was instinctive in the Goddess’s supplicants. The wild mind of man did not bend easily, but it always submitted to Her in the end.


All the priestess needed do was wait.


When Astrid judged Kader ready, she knelt to be on a level with the frenzied spacer. “There now,” she crooned softly, passing a hand over his sweat-soaked brow. His eyes flared at her like twin pools of pure wrath, but he couldn’t resist Astrid, and she was undaunted: “Rise, and let the Dark Sun Goddess purge you of your sin.”


Kader's dark gaze gleamed with something akin to relief as she raised him to his feet once more, and drew him near an iron bar that was suddenly suspended from the temple’s stone ceiling, lowering itself from the ceiling’s shadows in accordance with the priestess’s will.


Iron, illusion, flesh … all bows to the Goddess’s will. Even me.


“Remove your shirt,” Astrid ordered dispassionately.


Kader responded quickly enough again now that the bonding frenzy had nearly drained from him, and tugged the roughworn garment over his head in a single, swift motion, letting it pool at his feet. “And your boots, your trousers,” Astrid added, taking care to sound almost bored.


The way her pulse quickened at the sight of the angular planes of his tanned, scarred chest was unbecoming, and she gazed at him through through half-lidded lashes as he kicked off his work boots and coarse cargo pants.


Though in the middle or latter part of his fourth decade, his frame was still slender as a hunter’s. His Neopersian blood was clear in the broadness of his shoulders, the hewn lines of his muscles beneath skin the color of burnt honey. He was a fine specimen of a man — and the hardening ridge of his erection strained against the fabric of his tight black undershorts as Astrid fastened a set of leather-and-iron cuffs around his wrists. She clipped the cuffs to the iron spreader bar, letting her fingers linger against his bare flesh for a moment longer than necessary. Long enough to make him wonder.


The inviting heat of the man’s skin made Astrid compress her lips together to keep back a moan, but Kader shuddered openly at the electric touch. Even now, before the purgation had properly begun, he was opening himself to Her through Astrid, readying himself for Her justice.


Like all supplicants, he was a man at war with himself, but it was a good sign that he was bending willingly toward Her unfathomable love. The Goddess’s touch could be harsh — and sometimes it was precisely this severity that Her petitioners needed most.


This one will be ready soon, Astrid realized as she traced a sigil in the air and the suspended spreader bar retreated, raising itself high enough that Kader's bent elbows were almost in line with his shoulders. She was duty-bound to bring tranquility to his inner tumult, but it would not do to harm him improperly.


Even though her will held him tighter than any restraint wrought of human hands, it was important to maintain the illusion she was weaving about him — and she locked eyes with the spacer again, slowly sinking to her knees before him.


The Goddess’s mercy needed be a seduction in the first part, with Astrid playing the role of his sacred temptress. Only those who truly enjoyed such a role could play it well.


Her breath was hot against his briefs, and a hiss escaped his gritted jaw as he stared down at her. She simply returned his gaze, taunting him as she sank lower still, locking another set of leather-lined manacles around his slim ankles and clipping them to metal loops riveted to the floor.


Tendrils of Kader's dark hair swept across his sweat-beaded brow as the spacer dropped his head and gave a quiet laugh of frustration. The heavy links chaining him to the scored stone ground clanked faintly as he readjusted his stance.


Astrid allowed herself a moment’s satisfaction amid the roiling chaos of the man’s emotions; he showed no sign of having noticed that the manacles hadn’t existed there before, only frustration that they bound him now. Whether he was simply accustomed to the ways of the Goddess or distracted by his still-pulsing need, it didn’t matter.

Time to begin.


Astrid sketched sigils of revealing in the air and her wooden cabinet was there beside her, dark cherry wood gleaming under the glowmoss’s seething light. She’d made the cabinet with her own hands, imbuing the glossy boards with elaborate wards and oiling the hinges until they moved as silently as ghosts.


She could feel the spacer watching her as she opened its doors now, and heard his sharp intake of breath as she revealed the tools of her trade: hooks and gags, supple leather harnesses, vampire gloves, coiled whips, and lengths of glimmering chains.


None of these were for him, though — he was a man to be swayed by the thud, not the sting. Astrid made a show of picking through the various implements before selecting her prize: a matched set of elkskin floggers bearing such intricate braiding on the handles that they appeared to be wrought of dragonscale rather than leather.


Twin pommels of dusky glass glittered atop the handles, refracting the hearthlight like living sparks as they anchored straps that molded comfortably to her wrists. Like that same obsidian as his eyes… Yes, this will please Her.


She left the cabinet open so that he could still gaze at it. The room was elsewise bare in that direction save for the softly chattering pool that was nearly lost to the darkness. Not that their surroundings would matter in a few moments, anyway.


Pleasure spread through her belly as Kader watched her approach him. Astrid was of noble height, but even given the few extra inches her boots afforded she was barely on an eye level with the man’s throat. Regardless, the larger man had willingly snared himself in her trap, they both knew as much — and that knowledge was a powerful intoxicant.


Astrid smiled faintly as she held her floggers in one hand, twining the fingers of the other into his sleek ebony hair as the glassine pommels grazed his jaw. 


“Are you ready, my prince?” she murmured.


A wry gasp escaped Kader at her touch. “Don’t flatter me, priestess.”


“All men are princes in the Goddess’s eyes.” Astrid’s fingers tightened in his hair, warning him not to disobey as she ran the floggers’ handles along the vulnerable skin beneath his jaw.


Kader’s eyes widened as blue-green light crackled to life within the dark glass spheres, and Astrid allowed herself a grim smile. Part of her had been waiting for this moment, and the storm of fear and awe within him threatened to soak her.


She drew back, leaving her captive wanting, and circled him, her leather boots echoing solidly against the solid greystone floor. With each footfall she could see a barely-suppressed tremor of apprehension dance along the spacer’s spine.


A powerful spasm rippled across his back as she stopped just behind him, her footsteps falling abruptly silent. Perhaps he was already expecting the lash — but Astrid only laid her floggers over his shoulders, carefully draping the tails forward over his smooth chest and balancing the handles behind his taut shoulders so that they hung there comfortably.


She marveled at the sculpted lines of his trapezius muscles, hardened to iron from the physically demanding work of mining, and how the blue-green light emanating within the pommels of her floggers looked against such a masterpiece. A perfect canvas for the Goddess.


Astrid completed her transit about Kader to find his face tense with worry. “Don’t let them drop,” she said pointedly, delighted at the way his countenance drew with rebellion for a fraction of a moment, like vermin exposed to sunlight.


There it is. Lady, steady my hand in bringing him to Your breast!


He had begun to wilt from the strain of so much uncertainty, but the dilation of his pupils as Astrid moved her fingers to the tie of her dress was unmistakable. His hunger filled her mouth, an instinctive ravening lust for her body set aflame by the simple gesture. He longed to be free of the shackles long enough to subdue her on the rutilated rock floor, spending his pent-up need within her in a torrent of grunts and screams.


A swirl of guilt followed, tainting the greed for her flesh, the two cravings savaging each other like beasts as she drew open the simple knot and the silken fabric fell wide.


The garment that lay beneath her dress could hardly be called clothing; it was more of a scant collection of black bandages wrapped about her full hips and breasts in a column, obscuring the roseate peaks of her nipples and her quim. The dress did little to elsewise conceal her form, and as Astrid watched, Kader's impatient gaze dropped to her thighs and the bare planes of skin that lay between the hem of her underdress and the tops of her polished boots.


The tattoos that encircled her curvaceous form like ley lines were clearer there, letters almost too fine to be distinguished forming phrases in the Old Tongue, invigorating her flesh and helping her serve as an even more sublime vessel for the Goddess’s needs.


The light emanating from the pommels of her floggers grew stronger over Kader’s shoulders, haloing his raven-dark hair in a flickering, blue-green glow. He stared at her, his lust gathering — and the need overtook him like a flood, clouding his aura in a red haze.


Every conscious thought in his mind was being subsumed by his inescapable need to fuck her.


It couldn’t be helped; it was in his very bones, the thing that had allowed his ancestors, the first terraformers, to survive when so many of their companions failed. The bloodlust had been a natural consequence of genetic tinkering, like a fevered testosterone heat that could only be controlled through intense self-control and regular devotions.


Though Neopersians made up only a small portion of Her supplicants, the Dark Sun Goddess was always delighted to accept their offerings.


The blue-green energy in the flogger pommels began to spill along the length of the leather tails, encircling each thick, half-inch-wide strap in a coil of ghostly lightning. The sacred energy distracted Kader only a little as it crept up over his shoulders and spilled down his chest.


He was too overwhelmed by Astrid’s closeness, the scent of rosewater radiating from her body with her heat — and beneath it, the pheromones unique to the Goddess’s servants, tantalizing him and welcoming his approach.


Yes … be awestruck by Her! Surrender your rapture, traveler… 


It was exhilarating to have such potent thoughts in her head as Kader’s. Many supplicants were strong, but he was the closest thing to a barbarian that Astrid had ever encountered; free of his societal shackles he was intoxicating, all sensation and no sense, barely held in check by his human graces.


Right now he was unraveling before her, his urges unfolding like some devouring beast. One it was in her own flesh and blood to tame.


Astrid moved closer, daring Kader to strike — and as she reached around his torso, embracing him, he lunged at her neck with a growl. It was in vain, of course; her will was attuned to his like a bow to a cello, and he stopped, thwarted mid-strike. The man’s eyes howled at her with the force of a hurricane, but he was utterly frozen. 


She locked his arms about his neck and rose up high enough on her tiptoes to draw her body into alignment with Kader’s, cruelly grinding her pubis against the ridge of his cock. It was always such an amazement to Astrid, this moment when a swollen phallus, angry for her womb, became as a marble statue, both seething and restrained all at once.


A growl rippled in the spacer’s throat even as a wave of ecstasy washed through his core, and she loosed his tongue to hear his anger: “Gods damn you, priestess!”

Gods may damn me, but never the Goddess. The mental echo of what the spacer was feeling compounded with the euphoria flooding Astrid’s sex, and she felt her hollow slicken the cloth of his briefs in response.


The ashen smell of rock was interwoven with his dusky scent, and she could feel his iron cock against the apex of her thighs, throbbing with longing for her. She tilted her hips carefully, and as her drenched pussy lips spread to admit his fabric-shrouded erection, something deep in her belly cramped with longing to feel him within her. Let him be my spindle today, let him do more than merely prick my thigh… 


But Astrid was a priestess of the one true Goddess, and no animal. Sex would come in its time, as a reward for them both. She clung to Kader, demanding his attention with her body as she murmured a single word into the heated skin of his neck: “Confess.”


He had no answer for her but short, panting breaths as he strove against her will. Her mind imprisoned his, implacable, holding his body in place as she rolled her hips against him again. Only the thin, compiled-cotton garment separated her from taking him within her.


She wound her legs about him, and her clit found the head of his cock as she pressed her sex even closer to his, riding his length until his apex shuddered against her belly.


It took intense control of her muscles to rise again with that same tantalizing slowness, but it was worth the effort; Kader moaned, near-insensate with fervor as she surmounted his swathed phallus again. “Confess, Kader Zayn.”


His black eyes glittered with rebellion. “I’ll have you confessing my name before the night’s through.”


Astrid laughed mockingly as she alighted from his rigid body and swept her floggers from his shoulders with a flourish. Though the urge was real enough, the threat itself was hollow — and he knew it.


“Perhaps. Perhaps not,” she allowed, pretending to play along. “The Goddess will grant you the release you crave, but only if you are truly penitent.”


She snapped the leather tails to discharge some of their power in a flurry of sparks, and Kader’s eyes widened as azure and emerald energy crackled in the air behind her.


There it was again in his eyes: the Goddess-fear, the terror and bliss of beholding her — but it was still hidden beneath a mask. To draw out his devotion, she would first need to scourge him of his final shred of defiance.


Astrid let the crackling floggers play over Kader’s thigh as she passed behind him again. She cleared a few of the lesser sigils binding his body — for this next part she would need her full concentration — and he swayed against the restraints, quickly steadying himself and turning to glare over his shoulder at her.


It was a murderous gaze, but Astrid only smiled. “Turn your gaze forward, servant.”


Her words were Goddess-sent, and Kader’s body snapped to obey before his mind had even made sense of the words. Much as she would’ve reveled to see him offer his devotion with her own eyes, that vanity had no place here. She was his tormentor.


And now, to his torment.


Astrid gathered both of the floggers’ braided handles together in her right hand and swung the tails up over her right shoulder, readying herself. The energy emanating from the tips of the elkhide straps tickled her back. “Confess, sinner.”


Make me,” Kader flared. To anyone else his words might’ve sounded like a threat, but as a trained priestess of the Dark Sun Goddess, Astrid could hear the note of pleading buried within.


The priestess swung the twin floggers in a lazy downward arc, striking him crossways over the back.


She could sense his disappointment at the lightness of the blow, barely a slap compared to the raw punch he secretly craved. That would come soon enough — but Astrid only swung the floggers up over her left shoulder and mirrored the gesture, completing a sideways figure eight.




The miner laughed, but there was a note of hysteria in his voice as Astrid struck him again, harder now that she was getting a sense of his tolerance to pain.

She picked up speed, letting the lashes buffet his skin in a jaunty tattoo, occasionally alternating flogger strokes like the tempo of a cantering horse to keep him off his guard. As she quickened pace, alternating between softer and heavier strokes, the light from the floggers’ pommels poured along the leather straps like liquid light.


A dusky blush filled the spacer’s skin as the tails kissed him in their ceaseless dance, and electric blue-green brilliance streamed from the squared tips to his tortured frame like the flowing of some eternal river.


It was hypnotic — and Astrid could feel the bond between them strengthening with each blow. The slap of the tracers against his skin was like silk over stone. “Confess.”


“Confess what?” Kader forced through gritted teeth.


“Confess yourself.” Astrid stepped diagonally closer to Kader and swung the floggers in a single circle, slowing their whirling dance so that the light radiating from them dimmed somewhat.


She ran the palm of her free hand along the spacer’s skin between the staccato strokes, dilating the flow of time with each touch so that each moment seemed sensuously long.


The miner trembled at Astrid’s every caress, ripples of that base yearning for her echoing throughout his body. He was imagining her fingers straying to his throbbing phallus — and overcome by the same urge, she swept the floggers to a stop, gathering them in one hand again.


She moved close to Kader as a shadow, sliding her hand around to the front of his hip and along his length. The fabric of his briefs still clung to him, wet from her own sex, and she slid her fingertips down his erect cock.


Kader stiffened, but the barest moment before he found his release Astrid’s magic was there to hold him back. He cried out with blind rage at being denied, but again she was there to restrain him when he would storm against her.


“There,” she soothed as she worked at him with her hand, more urgently now. Her own sex was throbbing with desire for him, and she paused long enough to reach between her thighs, soaking her fingers with her essence before slipping it down the front of his briefs to take his naked flesh in her hand.

He was even thicker than she’d anticipated; her fingers and thumb were noways close to meeting as she encircled the tip of his head, sliding them in a ring down along the length of his rigid shaft and up again.


She surreptitiously measured him against the length of her arm; with his base at her wrist, his head nearly brushed her elbow. The thought of the delicious pain he would instill in her almost brought Astrid to her knees. Goddess, grant me patience!


She had to content herself with running her fingers over his sensitive skin, tracing sigils on his cock with her slick fingertips as she teased him at the brink.


Kader shuddered in her hand, his very being fighting her to do what was in his nature. He growled and cursed in a blind fury, writhing against Astrid’s restraints and her touch, but for all his raging he was unable to even spend his scorching seed, let alone escape her.


Astrid slowed her strokes as Kader tired, his ragged breaths like furious sobs — and when he finally sagged against her control, at a loss from struggling yet still rock-hard, the priestess withdrew her hand and stepped back.


She sketched a sigil in the air and the seams of the spacer’s undershorts hissed before scorching apart at the seams, revealing a muscular arse that was delightfully smooth to Astrid’s touch.


She encircled his body with her arms, running the pommel of one flogger along his cleft and drawing the tendrils of the other against his stiffened cock, laughing with pleasure as he gasped at the memory of some past devotion. Not that Astrid intended to follow such a path today; nonetheless, the suggestion of unease that permeated his aura was sweet to her mind’s probing, recommending him to the Goddess’s love.


He’s ready for more.


“Confess,” she murmured over his shoulder.


Kader’s dazed voice was so quiet she might not have heard it but for the rumbling in his body. “I h-have dark desires.”


Astrid ran the pommel of the flogger in front of his body along his cock again. The spacer writhed at the ecstatic touch the implement bestowed, especially as she swirled the sphere around his head, still slick with her essence. Though she had already seen and named the shadows in his mind, he was still only partway to offering them to her.


She resumed her former position behind him, gathered the flogger handles into her right hand again, and began tracing figure eights across Kader’s back. Soon she wove her left hand into the pattern, separating the floggers into interlacing patterns.


Kader moaned softly, fingers clutching ineffectually at the wrist manacles and spreader bar above him as the sensations threatening his body intensified.


“Servant of the Goddess, confess your dark desires,” Astrid crooned.


She moved the flow of of the floggers’ strokes, tracing figure eights down the length of his back, deftly avoiding his spine and the sensitive area near his hip where a knife once went six inches deep during a bar brawl. He still fears being touched there.


Kader shivered as the pattering fire of her floggers reached the flat of his ass, and Astrid knew she was close to breaking the dark-haired man as the Goddess’s magic exploded outward to weave around his body, azure-and-emerald glow spreading from the spacer’s core like glowing roots.


“There’s violence in me,” Kader gasped, half-hysterical in his delirium. “I could harm someone — I want to — please, priestess, don’t let me—”


That’s better. Sweat drenched Astrid’s brow, stinging her eyes, but she could see nothing but the shackled miner. She was more than mere flesh now; her ley-line tattoos writhed like living flames, infusing the energy that poured through her body with a violet aura.


With a sigh of satisfaction Astrid modified her strokes one more time, striking Kader with the heavy, thudding tattoo he’d been craving, the footsteps of the Goddess. The priestess could feel her eyes flaring with inner light as the thick leather straps pounded Kader’s back.


She comes… 


Even as her limbs moved, Astrid felt herself being dragged forward through her own body by the relentless flow of energy, drawn inexorably into the nexus of spiderwebbing power that was coalescing before Kader.


She had limbs again now, but they were pure shadow-energy, howling chaos given form as her physical body stood behind him.


Surrender your darkness to Me, the Goddess-as-Astrid commanded wordlessly. Kader’s terror pleased her, and she could see the shadows roiling within him, gnawing away at the Goddess’s own wards. They would taste far better than the spacer’s lips, if he but offered them to her.


The Neopersian man obediently lowered his face, and the priestess’ mouth claimed his, drawing forth the darkness in a poisoned kiss.


He surrendered to her unreservedly now, and she cleansed him, leaving him exhausted if purged. The darkness would grow in him anew, that much was coded into him like his unfathomably dark eyes — but so long as his devotions were both regular and fervent the corruption would stay only a thought, not spilling over into action.


Then Astrid was herself again, the bright threads of the weaving withdrawing back into the floggers’ tips as she found herself behind him. Kader slumped against his restraints, and she observed him carefully as she slowed her strokes for some minutes to cool his flesh.


Once an appropriate span of time had passed, Astrid again collected both floggers in her right hand and braided them to a gradual stop. Kader was still able to stand of his own strength, but the priestess didn’t want to test him more than necessary. His offering had been powerful; his reward should be equally great. The Goddess favors him for his honesty.


Astrid returned her floggers to the cabinet and drew another few sigils in the air, sweeping Kader’s restraints back into illusion and catching the larger man as he staggered. With another twist of her wrist, bright blue flames blazed to life in fist-sized braziers that were set at the edges of the raw pool like gemstones.


She guided the spacer toward the lagoon, and he sank to one knee at the water’s edge. Good servant that he was, Astrid needed not even bid the man remove her boots before he was fumbling with the heavy silver clasps, freeing her from the thigh-high leather columns one leg at a time.


His stubbled jaw brushed the outside of her hip just below her hemline, and it only took the barest nudge to prompt the towering man to wrap one arm about her waist, pulling her into the pool along with him.


The water was pleasantly warm, and Astrid was more conscious than ever of the constricting straps of her underdress as she slipped into Kader’s lap. He’d found the sitting shelf that had been crudely hewn into one edge of the pool, and she cradled his head against hers as he recovered his senses, powerful arms wound about her to keep her close. His entire aura had changed, transmuted from the Goddess’s touch; his inner strife had been taken from him like a fever, and the passion that remained was commonplace enough.


“You were the Divine.” The spacer’s voice was ragged with emotion.


Astrid laughed quietly, running her fingers through his silky hair in a caress. “And you speak as though this was your first devotion.”


“It’s never been quite so powerful.” He shuddered beneath her, awed a second time by the memory, and his arms tightened about her waist. “It was like this was my first time.”


She tasted his aura, surprised to find that the spacer was telling the truth. Other devotions had sated his need, true, but even now he hardly dared to touch her for reverence of the Goddess’s unseen face.


“My prince…”


Astrid ran his fingers along his jaw, lifting his gaze to hers, but he shook his head gruffly. “I told you, I’m just a man.”


She shrugged. “What does a priestess care about the titles of men?” Still Kader refused to look at her, but she slid lower in his lap, teasing him with a smile until he couldn’t look away. She patted the stone lip of the pool. “Regardless of your life, your manner beyond these temple’s walls, you’ve served the Goddess well, and not been cruel to your fellow kind. That’s all that matters to Her — or to me.”


As Kader’s dark eyes bored into her, stirring her in her core, Astrid quickly drew another illusion around them. She smiled as the spacer glanced about, taking in their altered surroundings; suddenly they were far from the Goddess’s sanctum, the lines of the pool a perfect rectangle of dusky marble rather than crudely hewn rock. Tremendous circular windows lined the walls, as though they had simply blinked against the brighter light and found themselves in a royal pleasure-palace.


Though the water was warm, the pine-scented air had a chill to it, as though borne from snow-capped mountains. Astrid’s nipples stiffened to points, and they bit into her palms as she covered herself against the cool breeze. She laughed to see Kader’s bemusement. “You know this place.”


“I do,” he murmured as he glanced around. “Though … from a fairy tale, of course, not real life.”


She’d seen it in his mind when she first scrutinized him, an image crystallized in his life’s prehistory: a woman in this pool, naked save for bloodred roses on her temple, throat, and breast. Though her skin was slick from the water, the flowers clung to her, refusing to release their grip on her supple body.


Kader stared down at her, utterly open to Astrid as she drew her hands away from herself. She could feel him rousing beneath her, his thick phallus stiffening against her arse at her nakedness and her nearness and the roses gracing her umber skin. The Goddess kept her priestesses pure, and at this moment Astrid was grateful for it; imagination was one of her many gifts, but it wouldn’t equal the sensation of Kader filling her with his torrid cum.


He pinched her left nipple with a calloused thumb and forefinger, rolling the plum bud between them until she sighed with longing — and then his hand moved lower, tracing the soft swell of her belly down to the apex of her thighs.


He was watching her carefully, Astrid reflected, perhaps waiting to be stopped, but she kept deliberately still as his thumb slipped between her silken folds.


Clearly he hadn’t been expecting to find her ready for him, because the spacer murmured as he ran his fingers along her slit, prying her nubile sex open. Even given the water surrounding them it was obvious how badly her body craved his, and she mewled with satisfaction as he twisted first one and then a second finger into her hollow.


The rough pad of his thumb massaged her clit, and his handsome mouth twisted in a wry laugh as his fingers tightened on her cunt and the nape of her neck. She was trapped across his lap — but only barely, and his thumb swirled at her Goddessgate again like a warning. “Do you know what I might’ve done to a woman like you, before I found Her love?”


“Yes,” Astrid answered honestly as he stirred her again, his fingers surging deep in her pussy as though to hold her even as she’d held him. “But the Goddess rewards things in turn. One willing sacrifice begets another.”


She nimbly spun to straddle the spacer’s lap. His cock slipped easily between her swollen lips, his head nearer the rosebud of her arse than her pussy. Kader narrowed his onyx eyes at her, suspicious as she pressed her body against his, urging him on. “You denied me before.”

Astrid grinned at the dark, angular man. “Now reap the dividend of your patience.”


The Neopersian man groaned as she slid out of his lap like a selkie, but she only knelt beside him on the stone seat, catching his erect cock in her hands. Her mouth filled with sweet anticipation at the thought of sating him; she was trained in the Thirty-Six Ways, and was eager to try each method of pleasure upon her hulking companion before swallowing his gift.


The chill breeze was merciless against her bared quim, and the water lapping at her nipples hardened them to diamonds, but this promised to be the release that would serve Kader best and restore the best wards to his mind. Now, thanks to Her mercy, his needs could be sated for a time with the right sort of partner.


“No.” The word took her aback, but Astrid was even more astonished by the spacer’s speed as he dragged her out of the pool and flipped her onto her back. The pool’s edge dropped off beneath her bent knees, and her legs trailed in the water that enveloped the submerged bench.


Kader knelt on the hewn stone as he fitted himself between her thighs, smiling a little at the surprised squeak that escaped her. One hand enclosed her neck in an easily grip, brushing the rose at her throat with a rugged forefinger. He mercilessly grasped the curve of her arse with the other before grasping his own sex and guiding it against hers.


His obsidian eyes were relentless as his cock trespassed at her Goddessgate; fervent as he was, he wanted her to tease her, to know if she truly desired him or if it was merely her duty to welcome his seed. “I want to see you, priestess — not the Goddess, but the woman. The one I’m fucking. Can’t that be my reward?”


“Yes,” she breathed, delighted at his change. Now that his dark burden had been surrendered to the Goddess, Astrid could allow herself to show more than the mysterious mask all priestesses evinced during a devotion. “Tighter.”


His grip on her was like iron.


Astrid groaned as Kader negotiated his thick, rigid phallus into her petaline crease. His head split her Goddessgate like a wedge, and primal bloodlust sparked in the strange man’s eyes as he thrust himself deep inside her with an inarticulate groan.


She arched her spine in instinctive response to his intrusion, impaling herself further on his organ, her pussy scorching in the throes of delicious agony — and she clutched at the spacer’s wrists as he plunged deeper still, driving sense from her mind. He was too immense to take all at once, and it was only with a priestess’s focus that Astrid forced her own body to relax enough to admit him.


Her drenched hollow welcomed him and loathed him all at once, but even so a moan of commingled pain and pleasure tore itself from her throat as his hips flexed and he began to move within her.


Most men preferred to lie atop Astrid, pinning her with the weight of their bodies during this secondary release, but Kader held his body away from her, keeping his hand tight enough about her throat that she couldn’t resist. The connection between them still pulsed with power; she could’ve stopped him with the barest thought, had she so desired, but she was comfortable enough to find herself truly enjoying the sensations his touch inspired.


Without realizing it, she’d brought her feet up out of the water, bending her knees and setting her heels against the lip of the stone pool to grant him unfettered access to her cunt. His hips were sharp against the sinuous sweep of her arse, punishing her doubly with each thrust, but his skin was warm, welcoming against hers.

I haven’t felt overcome like this in a long time, Astrid thought feebly as she gazed up at Kader. Tendrils of the spacer’s dark hair clung to his perspiration-beaded brow, and his ebony eyes drank her in hungrily.


He drew his sex out of her nearly entirely, making her cry out with thwarted lust, and his lips quirked what could’ve been either a snarl or a smirk. The noises from her throat were guttural, more like the noises of a supplicant than anything — and she sensed his amusement flickering like fire. “Not so ethereal are you now, priestess?”


“I’m flesh, just as you,” Astrid rasped. With the darting movement of a snake she dropped her chin and caught his forefinger in her mouth, nipping and then sucking so that his hiss of pain quickly became a gasp of pleasure. She let her tongue play over the rutilated pad, and her teeth grazed his callouses, pressing again and swirling about the digit.


The spacer responded in kind, hooking his finger into the corner of her mouth, probing her and judging her reaction. His dark gaze flicked up and about for the moment, indicating their surroundings. “Don’t you care to know where this place is from?”


I’d thought he’d forgotten this was illusion, but he simply doesn’t care… That’s just as well. More than anything, Astrid was impressed by the man’s composure; his voice had barely shaken as he spoke, the relentless advance and retreat of his cock within her notwithstanding as he penetrated her afresh.


Astrid’s own thoughts were quickly eroding within the euphoric sensations, strange muscles within her clenching as Kader withdrew his finger from her mouth and his fingertips played along the curve of her neck. He left a damp trail along Astrid’s skin, and she felt it prickling to gooseflesh where the breeze kissed it.


He’s truly enjoying this, she thought, murmuring wordlessly to urge him on.


“It was a picture in a book of enchanter’s tales.” Kader’s hand skimmed lower, to her breast, and he tore the rose away from her skin so sharply that she cried out. “A young woman was bathing in an abandoned pool — this one. But you knew that already.”


“Yes,” Astrid gasped, savoring the way Kader drove into her sharply, punctuating his words. Her body was his now, and he belonged to her just as completely.


“An evil sorcerer sent toads to sully her skin,” Kader forced through a clenched jaw. The thought of it was making him fill her even more, throbbing a little as he remembered.


The recollection of the painting was so strong that Astrid could see it again now, the maiden’s wide eyes, the gentle curve of her fingers about her own body as she sought to protect herself from the sorcerer’s advances. “Yet she was so pure that as soon as the foul creatures touched her, they became wild roses.”


Ah … there! A seed of darkness coalesced within him as he spoke the words, and Astrid felt the man’s lust twist somehow at a memory that was buried deeper still. He’d wanted the girl in the painting, that was obvious, but shame emanated from him at something he was still reluctant to form into words. He needs a push. “Why didn’t you feel worthy of her?”


His hips slowed in their agonizing dance, and he stared down at her, his heartbeat shuddering through both their bodies. “I would’ve … for my own pleasure—”

Not a push, then, but insight. It was rare, but not unheard-of, for a priestess to open her mind to a supplicant. Trained as she was in the higher arts, Astrid drew aside certain mental wards with a thought, displaying her own perverse pleasures for the spacer like shadowed reflections.


“Yes…” he sighed, and Astrid was astonished to feel a sudden gratitude surge within him. What he’d seen emboldened him; he flipped her onto all fours almost languidly, tearing the roses from her throat and brow and casting them aside so that crimson petals littered the pale marble.


Ah, it burns where they touched me! Her intricate braids tickled her back, and her breasts swung freely as the sleek stone chilled her palms and knees.


Astrid unconsciously hooked her ankles over the pool’s edge, startled as the spacer moved up to kneel behind her. She welcomed the fierce heat of his body, but he only lifted her by the hips, repositioning her before him. The blazing steel bar of his cock pressed against her soaked quim; more than just from the water, she desired him again with the snarling hunger of a panther in heat.


Her body’s betrayal was excusable; the genetic modifications that had given rise to the Neopersians had imbued them with a predator’s breeding advantages. For this and a hundred other reasons they made for troubled, brooding spacers, perpetually imprisoned within the chains of their own DNA.


Even following some subsequent attempts at suppression of the mutant code, Kader was no doubt exuding trace pheromones that were calling to her, unlocking her own defenses. This release, now, with her, was one of a handful of times during his life when he could truly free the creature within.


He touches me as though he owns me, Astrid thought dizzily. Her spine warmed as he leaned forward over her, his damp hair tickling her shoulders. The spacer grunted with quiet pleasure as he wrapped one arm around her naked body, harshly fondling first one breast and then the other as his hard shaft abraded the length of her hollow.


Astrid’s stomach leapt as his hand moved lower, dragging along the flat of her belly and plunging between her thighs.

Goddess preserve me!


Kader’s coarse fingers found her clit and Goddessgate, plunging inside her until they were slick with her essence. Even as his soaked digit slipped away, his head was there to fill her, and the priestess heard herself groaning again as his unyielding phallus split her anew, inch by torturous inch.


She could feel him moving within the cradle of sensitive skin between her hips, nudging at the end of her channel, the ridges of his cock abrading against her curves in a way that made both of them shudder.


His fingers moved against her soaked nub even as his erection split her to her core, and Astrid cried out as his drenched thumb moved to the rosebud of her arse and sank inside.


He had her then; she bucked instinctively at this second intrusion, but his body entrapped hers like a labyrinth. She tightened about him in instinctive surprise — but the doorway between their minds was still open.


He had read her mind, had seen how this would move her. The suddenness of the gesture made her sink against him with longing, and he strove against her body harder now that she was pliant.


“You’re just as filthy as I am, priestess,” the spacer breathed, the tightness in his voice a sure sign that he was nearing. His girth overfilled her, but she accepted his every thrust with mews of rapture, shuddering as a surge of magma-hot precum oozed inside her.


His intrusions were growing sharper now, and she fingered her own clit as he ground into her, using her body to quicken himself.


The dark man twitched his thumb within her arse, and Astrid groaned, shuddering against his grip as his cock ravaged her dripping quim. His jewels slapped her like a reproach, and her arms trembled with the force of holding her ground. The spacer had make himself inescapable; he was a cell without a key, and she would cum for him just as surely as he would for her.


“You’ll accept this offering, too, won’t you, lady?” Kader demanded from over her shoulder. “Even if I break you?”


He thought his goading was subtle, Astrid knew — and her lips curved into a smile. She steadied her voice before managing: “You couldn’t break me if you tried.”


The priestess’s sex burned as the spacer rutted in her like an animal, their intermingled breaths primitive and unforgiving. He needed her vulnerability, and it wouldn’t do to pretend, so Astrid surrendered herself to the base need burning in her core like an ember. Even as his incursions into her belly became more passionate, his groans more arduous, she twisted and writhed in his grip, pretending to struggle as she knew they both desired — as she herself had dreamed of since she came of age.


He thinks me caught in his web when truly he is caught in mine. The Goddess’s sight reveals all to be illusion.


The connection binding them was even stronger than Astrid had initially anticipated. The spacer’s mind was lust-blinded, his thoughts a mere haze of need — as her own would’ve been but for years of principled study. His raw sex pumped into her again and again, searing her to her core, and his thumb surged within her arse, sending ripples of pleasure through her thighs and up her spine.


Astrid felt the heat gathering in the spacer’s jewels as his edge approached. His fingers tightened mindlessly on her skin; he was lost in her body, and as he groaned and stiffened, he crushed her hips down onto him entirely, burying his length in her to his shank. Tremors ran along his rigid cock, and ecstasy overtook Astrid as she felt his blistering seed erupt within her, filling her and pushing her over the brink.


A wildcat’s scream ripped itself from the priestess’s throat, and she threw herself back against her despoiler, driving herself down upon his still-rigid shaft in the throes of ecstasy. She clutched at his wrists, her nails digging half-crescents into the Neopersian’s skin as she came.


His bellow of anger half-deafened her, but his rage was what she craved, and she felt more of his hot essence spurting into her as she ground onto and around him, transfixing herself on the spacer’s unsheathed cock.


For a long time there was only silence, punctuated only by their panting breaths and tremors that ran through their intertwined bodies. The illusion of the pale marble pool was broken; the raw pool was again behind them, the greystone floor of the Sisterhood’s sanctuary beneath their bare knees.


The spacer’s erection impaling her pussy was real enough, though; his cum had begun to drip from her thighs and the curve of her arse by the time Astrid collected herself. The dark man nuzzled her hair, wordless with exhaustion, and she cried out as he shifted his weight, his still-hard length moving within her. She would have a hundred aches tonight, but it was the most delicious pain imaginable.


Astrid’s wrapped underdress had been torn to tatters, so she slid the garment up and over her head, discarding it beside the raw pool before extracting herself from Kader’s swollen prick and thumb, sinking down into the warm water again.


The man joined her a moment later, and she was surprised to find him still hard. Too much of deep space is unhealthy for any man.


She reclaimed his lap without a word, smiling at the screaming in her muscles as she took him within her Goddessgate again. He was exhausted from his first coming, and it took only a few minutes of determined rocking and swirling of her hips before he again stiffened, his spurting warmth filling her belly a second time as she rode herself to completion.


His essence had been pure during both offerings, and Astrid felt the man’s energy flood her body, the Goddess drinking deeply of his power. He was drained of corruption, and it was an easy thing for the priestess to weave new safeguards for his mind. Astrid was confident her bindings would protect both the man and those around him for at least another full voyage.


“Mind you do not stray from Her light,” she admonished after they had regained both composure and clothing. Drawing the violet gown about her again, she shrouded the chthonic, base aspects of herself, reassuming the untouchable mantle of the Goddess’s chosen. 


Perhaps the spacer didn’t look any less tired than he had when he’d arrived at the Sisterhood’s sanctuary, but now it was a clean, untroubled sort of exhaustion. The tortured crease in his brow had vanished, and Astrid caught herself admiring the strength of the wards she’d used to crown his mind. He is strong — the Goddess will be watching over him, the Beacon Her eyes.


For the first time she caught a glint of something in his shadowed eyes that she might’ve called hope. “Thank you, Priestess. Perhaps our paths will cross again.”


“Perhaps,” she admitted, allowing a faint smile. It was unseemly for any member of the Sisterhood to show a supplicant undue favor, but though their connection was waning, she could still sense his feelings enough to know he thought her response cryptic.


Yet his next words surprised her: “I hope they do.” There was such earnestness about him that an unexpected rush of warmth flooded Astrid’s chest.


His dark eyes lingered on her for a moment as he turned away, but then he was lost to the darkness beyond the sanctum.


Caelestia coughed politely to announce her presence, and Astrid turned to greet her companion. The younger woman’s eyes were glowing with pride. “That was a masterful devotion, Soris Astrid.”


“May it please Her,” Astrid responded, surprised to find her words slurred with fatigue.


“Let me draw you a bath,” Caelestia offered, almost tripping over her words in her desire to prove helpful. “Or should you like something to eat? You must be famished.”


The senior priestess inclined her head. Her companion didn’t need to have probed her mind to have heard the low rumble of her stomach; her ministrations to the spacer had been taxing, both mentally and physically. She’s a clever one — perhaps, in time, a more powerful priestess than the Sisterhood has seen in years. “Both, in time. First let us honor Her for Her endless grace.”


“Of course,” Caelestia agreed quickly.


Bless the spindle, Astrid offered to the endless silences within her mind as they lit bundles of smudging herbs that were bound with black thread and raven’s feathers, and cleansed the ritual chamber. Bless iron and leather and fire, the tools of Her mercy. Bless the wheel of pleasure and pain that is Her glory.


The glowmoss flared in the chamber; the Goddess had heard her own offering.


It had been a good devotion, indeed.