"And stay away from the ivy."
"Yes, Miss Agartha."
"Friedi Shepherd saw it stirring just last week. That boy is jumpier than a spider on coffee, but you know it's not worth the risk."
"I know." Cedwyn nodded eagerly. The apprentice was already packing his satchel at the front door of the stilted hut.
Agartha hopped off her stool and limped over, using the wall to support her left side, since she'd forgotten her crutch by the front door again. The walls of the hut creaked ominously, speaking to long years in the sagging village of Moist. She tapped his shoulder. "Do you have the list?"
Cedwyn sighed and gave his master a long-suffering smile, holding up the wadded sheet of paper in his hand. "Yes, Miss Agartha." He straightened and reached over, handing the aging witch her crutch. "I wouldn't forget it. But I know all these herbs by heart, anyways. I go out there, like, every other week for you."
Agartha tsk'd, reluctantly accepting her crutch. "Mind your manners, Cedwyn. No need for snideness. I'm only making sure." She tousled his frizzy copper-red hair. "Just remember to imprint it. We don't want a repeat of that incident with the transformation potion, do we?"
"No." He laughed, limply trying to brush her hand away. He held up the parchment and chirped an incantation. With a hiss, the paper dissolved into smoke, settling on the back of his hand like a tattoo. "There."
"Very good!" Agartha gave a gap-toothed grin. The old witch hobbled back to her cauldron and hopped up back onto her stool. "Be back after sunset, don't speak to strangers, and only call on Crafts if you're in danger." She paused, tilting her head to one side. "And remember to be civil. No scandals, no being short with people, mind your pleases and thank-yous. Remember, when you're out there, you're the—"
"Representative of the Craft to these people." Cedwyn nodded quickly, leaning against the door. "I know, Miss Agartha. It's not like I go out there and just start shoving old ladies around."
"I should hope not! The Craft likes elders, you know." Agartha gave a shrill cackle, spinning in her stool. "But I know you aren't a punk, Cedwyn. Just don't pick today to break that streak. The new moon is tomorrow night. It's a bad time to be making enemies."
"Yes, Miss Agartha." Cedwyn bit his lip, trying very hard to keep his tone from projecting sarcasm. "Can I please go?"
"Oh, very well." She waved a hand. "Go forth, my apprentice!"
Suppressing a sigh of relief, Cedwyn swung open the door and took one step out.
"Oh, and don't waste time talking to that Gilders girl!" he heard the witch call after him. "That girl is a hen in a hurricane—you mark my marks on this one!"
He shook his head ruefully and trotted down the steps, entering into the wildflower-strewn clearing in the Briarwoods.
"Yes, Miss Agartha," he said under his breath.
"And where are you off to, boy?"
Cedwyn stopped in his tracks as the voice sounded from behind him. He bit his lip, cheeks heating up slightly.
"I'm... off collecting reagents for my master, Miss Gilders."
"What's that? Master Miss Gilders?" A giggle. "Am I your master?"
Cedwyn groaned a little. But he couldn't very well just walk away when he was being spoken to, so he turned to face his assailant.
The Briarwoods was an intensely green deciduous rainforest overrun by rose briars, berry brambles, and the especially troublesome hamadryads of both plants. But this current speaker was not a fey.
No, this was the farmer's daughter, Emelien Gilders. She wasn't on the same trail as Cedwyn—while he had to use the public path, Emelien trotted on the other side of a wooden fence covered in charms and runes (as part of a futile effort to keep the aforementioned hamadryads out), using her family's private trail. She held a large pail of water, indicating she'd just been out to the ley well.
Emilien was a knockout by any measure. Tall and thin, and extremely busty, the thin white shirt she wore barely reached her bellybutton. She wore over it an unbuttoned leather coat. Her hair was the same color as her family's hay fields, long, wavy and elegant.
"Young man." She put her hands on her hips. "I asked you a question!"
He gave an embarrassed little laugh. "Yes, Miss. Good one!"
"Where are you off to, boy?" She skipped over to the fence, and cedwyn struggled not to stare at her breasts—which really weren't meant to be subjected to gravity, or a t-shirt that tight.
Cedwyn blinked. "I just said."
"No, I meant, where exactly!" She pointed a finger at him, looking annoyed. "I'm not deaf, boy."
Emilien was only five years older than Cedwyn, at twenty-five. She never let him forget it.
"I'm heading to the old Whisper Oak for galls," Cedwyn said, biting his lip. "And the old fern patch. For ferns."
"And?" She leaned over the fence, and Cedwyn desperately tried to pretend he didn't notice how the fence was pushing her breasts up into view. "Is that all?"
"No, Miss," he said, sighing. "The old creek and the mushroom dark areas."
"Are you going near the old Witch's Gallows?" Emelien's eyes narrowed. "You'd better not be."
"No, Miss." He shook his head emphatically. "Definitely not."
"You stay away from those gallows. The old witch isn't sending you there, is she?" She sniffed. "My father says it's a sorry idea to even have a witch so close by.
"No, Miss, she didn't send me there."
"Hm." The farmer's daughter's lips quirked. "Well, you just be careful. Don't get lost!"
"No, Miss." He smiled and gave a little salute, hoping his face wasn't too red. "I never do get lost. But , um, really should be going."
"Oh, let me guess..." She raised an eyebrow. "Your master doesn't like you talking to me?"
Cedwyn bit his lip.
She smirked. "Am I a distraction?"
"Come here, then, boy."
Cedwyn slowly advanced, looking up at the taller woman like a snake that might bite him. He came up level with the fence.
She leaned in. "I can see you staring at my breasts," she whispered, a coy smile flickering across her face. "I can tell you can't help it."
His face went beet red.
And she darted in and kissed him on the cheek.
Cedwyn recoiled like he'd been bitten. Ignoring her shrieks of laughter, he backed away, returning to the path.
"S-sorry, Miss," he said, desperately trying to stay polite, "I... I, um... um..." He reached up to his cheek and felt the lipstick mark.
"Ooh, I dare you to wash that off." She grinned.
"I..." He hesitated, then lowered his hand. "G-Good day. Miss."
He turned and hurried away, eager to be deeper into the woods and away from this teasing.
"Don't you get lost, now, boy!" she called after him.
"I never do," he muttered under his breath. But he didn't dare say it aloud. That would definitely be considered 'rude'.
Cedwyn let out a heavy sigh, wiping his forehead of sweat.
This was a 'lost' feeling, definitely.
He cast about in the forest for landmarks. All around him stood tall, proud, clearly ancient trees covered in lichen. He was in the old-growth part of the forest. But what did that mean? He didn't recognize any of it. Damn it, I never get lost!
He flicked his fingers, mumbling a half-remembered incantation for finding the way. A tiny star appeared, uttered what appeared to be an obscenity, then burst in a flash of light.
He really wasn't very good at the divination spells.
Cedwyn let out a half-groan, half-moan, hitting his head against a moss-covered tree in frustration. He was already running late, and it was a sweltering, humid summer day. He wanted to be back home.
He kicked the ground and whispered a simpler spell, clearing the way again of briars. He'd already gotten pricked more than twice, but luckily, no hamadryads had bothered him yet. They probably knew better by now than to mess with the apprentice of the local witch.
As Cedwyn stepped over the cleared ground, he caught a glimpse of something in the distance.
He squinted. It looked like some sort of wooden structure.
Oh, thank the gods. He'd somehow wandered his way back home! With a sigh of relief, Cedwyn hurried through the briars.
But as he drew nearer, Cedwyn's wits returned to him. Wasn't it a bit odd that these trees were so old? His master didn't keep her hut in the old-growth forest. Plus, shouldn't he have come by the ley well by now? This couldn't be the hut.
And as he exited into a small clearing overgrown with brambles, Cedwyn's heart stopped.
This was not the hut. This was not home at all.
A great set of moss-and-mold-eaten gallows stood in the center of this clearing. There were no trees, and the sun shown directly down, almost blinding in its radiance.
Cedwyn stopped short in amazement.
He didn't dare take one step further. People said they were haunted, and while Cedwyn doubted it—ghosts and wraiths and the like rarely lasted long in a forest this full of life—he was reluctant to go directly against the instructions of Emelien.
The gallows were totally overgrown. Blackberries and roses vied for dominance all throughout the clearing—Cedwyn doubted he could reach the edifice if he tried, it was so thick. The gallows themselves were covered in stranger plants. Moss climbed nearly a half-foot in height—Cedwyn recognized it as "pillow moss"—and curious blooms and colorful mushrooms grew all around.
He found himself already breaking his rule, taking one step closer and marveling at the bizarre ecosystem. It was almost artistic, in a way. The ropes still swung—mercifully empty of passengers—but they were covered in algae such that they were an even brighter green than the trees above. Cedwyn couldn't believe how utterly green the whole gallows were, really, from the mold and algae and moss to the enormous plant growing in the center of it.
At first, Cedwyn mistook the plant for some sort of enormous skunk cabbage, as it had a vaguely similar shape and appearance—a set of great leaves encircling some sort of large blossom.
But no. This was not a skunk cabbage. He was quite certain of that.
Because he had never, ever smelled anything so... good.
The wildflowers all around smelled fragrant, but this enormous pink rose-like bud released a smell that nearly overpowered all the rest, nearly overpowered Cedwyn immediately. It wasn't just sweet. It smelled like a mix of herbs he couldn't quite place—minty and yet reminiscent of vanilla or nutmeg. Cedwyn took a deep breath, appreciating the sweet scent.
Then he smiled broadly and turned away. Pretty as the place was, it also creeped him out to no end. Besides, to his excitement, he now knew where he was—the Witch's Gallows was one hell of a landmark. Now he could find his way back to the hut.
He took a step out of the clearing.
"Well, hello, there."
Cedwyn froze in place, his heart slamming into his chest as though he'd stopped too fast and it had struck the front of his ribcage.
It was haunted. It was haunted. All the stories were true—they were all true, and he had doubted. There were ghosts, and they were going to possess him, or eat him, or possess him and make him eat people—
Cedwyn regained control of himself with a deep breath. He was a witch's apprentice, and whoever had just spoken was no doubt a witch's ghost. There was an etiquette, he was sure, even with witch's ghosts.
And this one didn't sound unfriendly, exactly.
Cedwyn slowly turned around, and realized he was being a real dumbass about things.
It wasn't a ghost. No kind of ghost he'd ever seen, anyway. Cedwyn knew from the books what ghosts looked like. They weren't solid. They had trouble forming any colors other than white, silver and sometimes—very rarely—blue.
Certainly, he'd never heard of a ghost quite that brilliant shade of green.
Certainly, he'd never heard of a ghost who looked... quite so solid.
She stood in the middle of the giant pink flower, which had blossomed with his back turned to it. The petals rose up to her chest, though from the way the flower's petals undulated, he got the sense she could be immersed over her head—or only down to her waist—depending on how the flower shifted.
Her skin was bright emerald green. Her eyes were a grassy hue, her lips a deep violet, the lone contrast he could see. Her breasts were hidden by the flower at the moment, but he could tell just by her cleavage that they were quite large. Her hair spilled down out of sight, a smooth and glistening soft pastel pink, with a pretty lotus flower as decoration. Her eyelids were painted a deep, dull pine, making her look perpetually just a little bit sleepy, and her lashes were thick and long. He stared at her, stunned.
A moment passed.
She giggled. "So, um..."
"Cedwyn!" he said, his voice almost a chirp. He cleared his throat, blushing, and took his hat down into his hands. He was wringing it quite badly, the poor thing. "Cedwyn, mother unknown; apprentice to Agartha. At your service." He bowed.
She blinked. "My, that's very polite and formal for little old me, isn't it?" She performed what was probably a curtsy, though it was hard to tell with her body mostly obscured. "Lilyana. It's a pleasure to meet you, Cedwyn."
"Y-yes." He nodded sheepishly, avoiding her piercing green eyes. He instead focused on the enormous rose. The petals seemed to move oddly, now that he looked at them—almost in the way a wineskin squished. Like there was... liquid in there.
So this was an alraune. That was a relief—he'd been terrified out of his mind, but alraunes were generally agreeable enough. Timewasters, that was all. Major time wasters. He swallowed, trying desperately not to peek at Lilyana's cleavage, trying to convince himself that anyone who looked like that could be a waste to spend time with.
"Well..." He coughed. "I really must be going. It's... it is an honor to meet you, Lilyana."
"Oh, wouldn't you stay a while?" She batted her eyelashes. "I haven't had any company out here in such a dreadfully long time."
Cedwyn swallowed. There was a plaintive quality to those honey-sweet tones. He took a deep breath. "I... I have an errand to see to," he said, realizing it sounded more like a feeble excuse than a refusal.
Clearly, she took it that way, because she only giggled. "Oh, Cedwyn, surely you can spare a minute or so to keep a lady company! I'm not asking you to leave your fiance at the altar or anything."
Well, he was sweating again. Cedwyn cast desperately for a polite way to refuse without outright lying. "I... I can stay a minute or so," he admitted, biting his lip. "But no more! I really, really must get back to my master. She'll be wondering where I am."
"Of course!" Her eyes sparkled with glee. "What a sweetheart you are. So agreeable!"
"Thank you," he said, giving a nervous smile. He was still trying to avoid looking her directly in the eye, but he settled for staring the flower again. Alraunes had such strange blossoms. This looked like a cross between a lily, a rose and a skunk cabbage, the more he looked at it.
"Please, have a seat!" Lilyana gestured, and he noticed an old stool sitting by the row of nooses. "I can't have you standing all the way out there like a solicitor, can I?" She chuckled.
"I..." He gave a nervous giggle, nodding along. "I'd rather not have to worry about the brambles. Besides, I doubt that stool could hold me."
"Well, I'm sure we'll find something that can," she said lightly, but appeared to drop the subject. "Well, anyway, how does a sweet-natured, easy-going boy like you end up working for a witch, hm?" She batted her eyelashes.
Cedwyn hesitated. It was a slightly sore subject, but she was asking very politely, and at least it wasn't anything lewd or suggestive. "She was a friend of my father's," he admitted. "When I turned up at his door, he didn't know what to do with me, and she offered to take me in."
"Aw. So you've never had a mommy, then." Her plump lips curved down in a sympathetic pout. "Poor thing. I'll bet you were a real handful for her!"
He squinted. It was awfully foggy and humid for mid-afternoon, and the haze made it a little bit difficult to see her expressions. "I, um... I suppose, a little bit of one. She was an old woman even then." He cracked a little smile. "She didn't know what to do with a baby."
"But I'm sure she did her best," Lilyana said graciously.
"Oh, yes." He nodded. "And she's a splendid teacher!"
"So... they allow witches in the area now, do they?" She cocked her head.
"Tolerate us!" he said cheerfully. "We help with the crops and such, and they help keep things under wraps whenever an inquisitor comes around town. Not that one's come by in years."
"How lovely for you." She cocked her head the other way, and for a moment, Cedwyn almost thought she sounded bitter.
But then she laughed. "Oh, boy, it really is getting hazy, isn't it?"
"Yeah." He smiled, relieved that she was noticing it, too, and it wasn't just in his head.
"Are you sure I can't get you to come over here?" She giggled. "I don't bite. If I did, I'd be a dreadful host! And you don't think I'm a dreadful host, do you?" She shook her head with a smile.
"O-of course not." Cedwyn shook his head quickly. "You've been a lovely host."But I should really be going, his mind added, but he felt bad just saying it outright.
"Very welcoming? Inviting?"
"Oh, yes, very."
"Well, then come on in!" she declared. And to Cedwyn's surprise, the brambles all around started to clear away, and he saw a narrow path form up to the gallows.
Cedwyn hesitated. But it felt awkward to refuse now. Rude, even. And it wasn't as if he thought she was going to hurt him or anything.
Besides, it really was getting hard to see her clearly in this hazy clearing.
I'll go in, but I won't sit down, he decided at last. That will send the message that I have to be going without actually refusing any of her requests. She'll take the hint. Otherwise, I'll just... have to be a little more assertive, then. Without giving offense.
He set out through the path, his toes sinking deep into clumps of pillow moss that served almost as stepping stones around the brambles trailing on the ground. He hopped through the clearing and up to the gallows steps.
The wood creaked beneath his feet, but held. He nodded, reassured, and checked that the path hadn't dramatically sealed behind him.
It had not.
He turned back up to the alraune and saw her smirking down at him. "Thought I was playing rather a mean trick, didn't you, sweetheart?" She didn't seem offended.
"I... maybe a little bit," he admitted.
She rolled her eyes with an amused sigh. "Do you trust me now?"
"I... yes, Lilyana."
"Good." She winked. "It's easy to trust me. You want to trust me; it's so much more fun!"
"Yes, Lilyana." He sat down on the steps railing, too late remembering his plan to remain standing. It seemed a bit passive-aggressive, though, now that he thought about it. Better to stay sweet and agreeable about it. He would raise the subject in a little while.
"Goodness," she said, and his attention darted back to her gleaming green eyes, "it is hot, isn't it? I'm so glad I go unclad. It's just... sweltering, with this nasty pink haze, isn't it?"
Reflexively, he mopped his brow. His sleeve was starting to get drenched from doing so, he noticed. "Yeah, it's a hot one," he agreed.
"Almost unbearably hot," she said, nodding encouragingly. "With this thick pink haze all around crowding in."
There was a bit of a rosy hue to the haze, now that he thought about it. Probably the effect of the many reddish flowers casting some sort of reflection through the fog.
"I'm amazed you can bear to wear all those clothes!" She giggled. "Me, I like to travel light, especially in the heat." She wriggled, hugging herself happily. "Not that I travel much! It's nice here. Nice and tranquil. I don't think I could ever bring myself to leave."
"Y-yeah." He bit his lip. He was getting awfully hot. "Well, um... I should really..."
"Would you like me to take your hat and coat?" she asked suddenly. "It's only polite."
Cedwyn blinked. He hesitated, then nodded, confused. "Sure? I guess."
She smiled politely as a pair of green vines extended from the forest canopy. Cedwyn jumped as one of the vines snatched his hat from him, as the other slipped beneath his coat and slipped it off of him. It tickled a little as it made its exit.
A warm breeze rustled his hair, and he yawned. He felt much better now, admittedly. Now all he wore was a simple white shirt and his breeches.
"There you go, boy!" Lilyana said, looking quite satisfied with herself. "Isn't that much more comfortable? Haven't I made you more comfortable there?"
"Yes," he answered, blinking rapidly. He felt oddly light-headed, and took a deep breath to steady himself. But strangely, this only seemed to make it worse. "Yes, Lilyana."
She beamed down at him. "Gooood," she cooed. The way she enunciated that word sounded nice. Almost suggestive. The way her lips formed a little 'o' as she made the sound, like she was readying to kiss... "I want you to be comfortable. Don't you want that?"
"I suppose so." He bit his lip. She was making it very awkward to refuse. Especially since now she had his hat. "Listen, um..."
"How are you feeling, Cedwyn?"
He blinked. "What?"
"How are you feeling, dear?" She leaned over the edge of her flower, smiling down at him. The very tops of her cleavage pressed against the petal. "You seem a bit... bothered."
Cedwyn felt hot in a way that had nothing to do with the heat. "I'm fine," he said quickly.
"Are you sure, dear?" She tutted. "Because I think you want to tell me something, don't you?"
"I... I, um..." He stared up into Lilyana's gleaming, sparkling green eyes. "I... yes," he admitted at last, unable to lie to her face.
"I thought so," the alraune purred. Cedwyn jumped slightly as a vine settled on his shoulder and massaged it slightly, as if to soothe him. "You wanted to tell me something. Something very important."
"Yes, that's right, isn't it?" Lilyana's eyes gleamed. Her voice was a dulcet purr, like the strumming of a harp. "You needed to tell me this, but you were too embarrassed, weren't you? You didn't want to offend me."
Cedwyn bit his lip.
"You shouldn't have worried." The vine at his shoulder slithered up and patted his head. "I'm not offended one bit!"
"Y-you're not?" Cedwyn blinked, glancing briefly up into the treetops, wondering if his hat and coat were already being returned to rectify this misunderstanding. He didn't see them, though, and quickly returned to staring into Lilyana's pretty, pretty eyes.
"Of course not," sweetie!" she said, in an almost motherly tone. "But you must always tell me the truth, understand? Never lie."
"Repeat what I just told you," she said, her expression turning a little stern.
"I..." Cedwyn tried to gather his throats. It was like grasping at clouds, and it took him what felt like a solid minute to recapture them all. "I must always tell you the truth, Lilyana."
"Of course you must!" The vine stroked through his hair as he stood before her. "Dear boy, never worry that I will be angry with you. You must tell me these things so that I can help you!"
Cedwyn thought she was laying the 'lesson' on a little thick, considering the odds of the two of them interacting again were fairly slim, but he knew it would be rude to say so. And he knew better than to be rude to someone so assertive—arguing her would just make her angry and start an argument. So he just nodded. "Yes, Lilyana."
"So, what did you want to tell me?" Lilyana teased.
"I..." It almost didn't seem important now, staring up into her pretty, sparkling eyes. But Cedwyn recovered his wits and cleared his throat loudly, trying to clear himself from the strange haze he found himself in. "I... should be going," he said at last.
"Aw. You're getting tired already?" And before he could open his mouth to clarify, Lilyana giggled. The vines caressed his cheek. "You poor dear, you look exhausted, too."
"Now, I know a thing or two about exhaustion," the alraune said, tutting as she examined him. "And you are very, very sleepy, aren't you?"
"I... but I..."
"Yes, so very sleepy." She pointed with a little smirk. "Boy, you're barely keeping your eyes open!"
His eyelids drooped. He rubbed them, shaking his head. "No, I..."
He trailed off. Lilyana seemed so convinced, and besides, if it got him out of here faster, why pick fights? Starting an argument would be rude when she was such an inviting host. Better to be agreeable so she would send him home. "Yes," he said finally. "I'm tired."
"You need a nice little place to rest, don't you?" she cooed.
He yawned. "Yes." He blinked blearily, then frowned. "Wait, n—"
The vine snaked around his torso, lifted him up into the air with a startled squeak, and dropped him onto a large bed of pillow moss. He sank into the soft, verdant mass, the vine holding him down in the softness. For a moment, he lay there, surprised at how comfortable it felt. His head buzzed a little.
He could use a nap. Just a little one. Just a nice little place to rest, so he wouldn't have to leave, so Lilyana could take care of... him...
Something about that sounded suspicious to Cedwyn, and he resumed his squirming against the vines. "Hey!" he protested. "I—let me out of here!"
There was a pause.
He heard the alraune's voice, sulky, hurt. "Well... alright, then."
The vine slipped away, leaving Cedwyn lying in the plant. He poked his head out, rubbing his eyes. He really was getting tired. It was late in the day.
Lilyana stared down at him, arms folded over her chest, pouting those violet lips. "I'm terribly sorry," she sniffed. "I didn't know my home was so unpalatable."
Cedwyn bit his lip. Damn it, this was why he always avoided confrontations! "I... I'm sorry," he said lamely. "I didn't mean to offend."
"I'm not offended." She dabbed at her eyes. "I just saw how sleepy you are, and I thought... I thought I could help. Just a short little nap before you went on your way."
Cedwyn bit his lip, slowly getting to his feet. "I, um... you have a lovely home. Really." He could tell her feelings were badly hurt, so he lay it on thicker. "This place is beautiful. I've never seen anyplace like it."
She blinked. "Really?"
"Of course!" He nodded eagerly, walking up to her. "And I'd be happy to stay a little while longer."
"Oh..." She sighed, then slowly smiled. "You really are a sweetheart. You just can't say no to a pretty girl, can you?"
He felt his face heat up a bit. She clearly noticed, because the alraune gave a tinkling laugh. "Oh, I'm sorry to tease you, boy. You're just so cute! Do the girls tease you awfully back home?"
"I..." He clasped his hands together, fumbling over his words. "There's this, um... I mean... no?"
She winked. "Someone special, hm? Oh, you must just be such a submissive when she talks to you. Poor thing. Some boys are just naturally obedient, don't you think?"
"I... yes, Lilyana." It was best to stay agreeable. Best to stay sweet and avoid saying no. Saying no to Lilyana just felt too difficult, and he didn't want to upset her again.
The vines tickled around his arm. "Poor thing. She must have teased you stupid."
"Have you ever felt that way?" Her voice grew husky and soft. "Horny and needy? Some boys just get so stupid when they're horny. I don't know how you manage yourselves, always getting so silly and horny whenever a pretty girl so much as... touches you." She reached forward lightly caressed his cheek. "Or... kisses you."
Cedwyn's face went red-hot as he realized he still had the kiss mark on his cheek. "She, um..." he stammered. "She was—I didn't—"
"Shh." Lilyana's eyes sparkled in the afternoon light. The pink haze seemed to shimmer, and Cedwyn swayed as her finger began to trace the outline of the kiss mark. He remembered the sensation of Emilien's lips on his skin, remembered her hot breath, the way he'd heard her give that tiny sigh of excitement as the kiss was planted... "Don't get all silly, now, Cedwuyn. You don't want to be one of those boys, do you?"
"I..." He was panting, leaning into her touch like a puppydog craving attention. "I don't... yes, Lilyana."
"Goodness." She batted her eyelashes, and he almost thought he blacked out for a moment. He really was lost in those brilliant green eyes. "Just one touch, and you're already acting so silly. Are you one of those boys?"
Okay, this was going too far. Cedwyn swallowed. "No, I'm not!"
"Are you sure?" she cooed, and ran her fingertips over his cheek. His mouth opened slightly, lost in a strange sort of delight, and his mind filled with cloudy pink static.
"Y-yes," he stuttered. He prayed that she wouldn't argue. He didn't want to have an argument with her, but he knew that this was... this was not a good thing to be agreeing to. He needed to get off these gallows before she got him to kiss her—submit to her—lose the afternoon inside her—
"Aw. Of course, baby." She shook her head and tsked. You're not like those silly, horny boys. You're much stronger than they are!"
"Y... yeah." He nodded quickly, relieved. "Yes. Yes, Lilyana."
"So strong-willed," she whispered, continuing to stroke his cheek. "Such a strong, agreeable, sweet-hearted boy. So sweet and submissive and not at all getting very, very silly from my touches on his sensitive, needy skin."
"Y-yes, Lilyana." He quivered, taking a step closer.
"He's not getting dizzy," she cooed, as her other hand came up and started stroking his hair, "or dumb, or horny and weak from being touched by me. Girls tease you stupid, but you never get silly or bubbly or obedient." The last word slipped with agonizing, sensuous slowness from her lips as a breathy whisper.
He whimpered, resting his head in her hands as she continued to run her hands over him. He was having more and more trouble keeping up with Lilyana's words, which was bad, because he was pretty sure what she was saying was important. But her touches on his face felt so nice...
"You never feel your mind getting all nice and happy and dumb and gooey," she sang, "until you just can't help but get so, so horny. You don't mind when a beautiful lady holds you and praises you and whispers sweet words in your ear while you're so happy and horny and silly from the mist that's filling you up like air in a balloon because you're strong and in control. No... no, you don't." Her fingers tickled his cheek.
He quivered. Somehow, Cedwyn had the distinct feeling that she had turned things around on him at some point, but he just couldn't focus enough to work out how.
"Isn't that right, baby?' she cooed, tilting his head up to look at her.
He stared up into her green eyes.
"Uh-huh?" he manged, confused. He just felt so... so confused and fuzzy. So silly and gooey.
And his cock was straining against his breeches with a singular desperation.
Just as he became conscious of the burning lust within him, Lilyana seemed to notice it, too. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed in some sort of shock. "Cedwyn, baby, sweet boy, your cock!" she looked back up at him in some sort of indignation. "Are you... horny from me touching you? Horny and silly and stupid?"
Cedwyn's heart started to speed up. "I... I, um... n-no?"
It was so hard to get the word out. Arguing was so difficult when he just wanted to be sweet and submissive and agreeable with everything pretty girls said. He knew she would just make him dizzy and confused until he agreed, or... agree with him until he agreed with her, like what she'd just done.
Or worse, she might be offended again and think he was rude.
But she didn't seem offended. To his utter relief and joy, she beamed at him. "Gooood," she cooed, and once again, she said it with such sensuous pleasure Cedwyn could have sworn a tongue was being lavished over his hard, needy cock.
Then he felt the tongue again, and his eyes widened.
"If you aren't silly," the alraune sang, "and you aren't horny, your cock must be confused! I think I'd better... examine it, don't you?"
"I..." Cedwyn's breath caught in his throat. What does she mean by that. He longed to look down and see what it was that was oh god it licked him again— "I—I—"
Her eyes sparkled like a million snowflakes caught in the sun. "Stop being silly..."
And then he felt something warm, wet, and tight lock tenderly around his cock.
"... and enjoy the succubus flower," the alraune said with a sly grin.
Cedwyn tore his gaze from her eyes to see a large, sinuous vine that had climbed up his leg. Without his even noticing, his pants had been brought down to his ankles, and a large, red flower had wrapped itself around his shaft. Several more hovered nearby, and he stared at one in stunned silence as a sweet pleasure started to spread inside him.
The flowers were... not flowers. No flowers he'd ever seen. Their interior was a deep red, glistening, and...
Cedwyn swallowed. He couldn't ignore their sapphic quality.
And at that moment, the flower around his cock began to suck.
Cedwyn's eyes widened. Had he not been held up by the tender grip of Lilyana, he would have fallen to his knees—as it was, he let out a humiliating squeal of pleasure.
It felt heavenly. It was the warmest, wettest, smoothest sensation he could imagine as the flower slowly pumped, working his member like... like cow udders. Sliding up and down his length, suckling it with perfect rhythm.
"Feels nice?" Jaw dropping, Cedwyn stared up with wide eyes at a very smug-looking Lilyana. She traced his cheek with one finger, grinning. "I thought it might. For some reason, boys and some girls love it when my succubus flowers check on their big, yummy cocks."
"Isn't it nice?" she teased. "Only... oh, dear." She shook her head ruefully. "It's making you all silly and subby, isn't it? This is what I was afraid of."
"Nnnn!" He shook and groaned and moaned desperately, biting his lip to contain a scream. He looked at her with a plaintive expression, silently begging her—Help.
But she only giggled, tugged him close, and kissed him on the cheek. Right where Emelien had kissed him earlier. "Poor baby," she whispered. "I did try to warn you. You need someone to take care of you for a while, don't you?"
"Someone to satisfy you," she said silkily, as she reached her right hand back to her mouth. She slipped the finger ever-so-slightly between her lips, and for a moment, Cedwyn almost felt clearer, with only one hand touching his cheek and no hand petting him. He also missed the hand.
She brought the finger back down, and it now held a tiny droplet of moisture. She held the finger out to his gasping mouth, smiling wickedly. "Someone," she said sweetly, "to spoil this poor, needy, horny, dizzy, submissive, agreeable, sweet boy with lots of sweet kisses."
And she slipped the finger into his open, receptive mouth. "Lick," she said firmly—but lovingly—and he found himself licking and sucking the finger like it was the tastiest sweetmeat he had ever known. He tasted a momentary dash of sweetness, of that same wonderful smell that filled the air. Then it was gone, and all that remained was a strange fuzziness in the corners of his vision.
And then her finger slipped from his mouth, and all thought of complaint left him, and he was squealing, moaning, panting and crying as the flower milked his cock like a milk kitten at a holstaur's breast. He—he was going to—he couldn't—
Aaaaha!"" The sweet suction milked an orgasm from Cedwyn before his brain could even recover enough from the molten pleasure to speak. "AAAAH!" Another orgasm flowed through him almost instantly, and his thought process went hot pink with mindless, stupefied bliss.
How had he
He screamed again as the alraune giggled, as a third orgasm consumed his body, devoured it, shook it like a leaf in a rainstorm, melted it like butter on a lust sprite's tongue. Lilyana cradled him as he cried out in bliss, but his cock was already throbbing, his empty, sweet mind already racing for a fourth mind-melting climax.
"Good boy," she cooed, stroking his face, helping his mind dissolve into obedient, submissive, silly sweetness. "There's my good, silly boy. Do you like her?"
Lilyana giggled. "Mm... yummy." She planted a little kiss on his cheek. "I think she likes you. And I think you like her!"
"You're just so lovey-dovey for my flowers, aren't you?' she cooed teasingly, leaning in closer. "All I have to do is mention them and you get all dizzy and hazy and forgetful, don't you?"
Cedwyn was rocking back and forth, panting, as a fifth orgasm sped towards his helpless body. He couldn't take this. It wasn't natural—he couldn't—
And then, as she moved to kiss him on the lips, he noticed something over her shoulder.
Amid all the greenery of the gallows, half-concealed by a large clump of pillow moss, the scalp and left eye socket of an algae-covered human skull poked up out of the green.