All Hallows’ Eve Masquerade Pt. 02-1

In part two, we return to beginning of the afternoon prior to All Hallows’ Eve for Althena’s story. This is a continuation, so make sure you read part one first!

In her satchel, Althena carried a string of pearls.

Whether it represented what she desired most, she didn’t know, but her last visit to the witch hadn’t been fruitful, so she hadn’t put much thought into the item she’d chosen.

Or maybe she’d put in too much thought.

With the amount of pearls found in the bay, they were hardly a luxury item. Men came from all over the land to see her and gift her with far more beautiful and expensive things. Those, she sold or traded to help out her friends and family.

The trinkets never meant anything to her, and if they were supposed to purchase her, the buyer always left unhappy.

She was never for sale.

Still, she knew that the rest of the village didn’t believe that, and why should they? Althena had a reputation for letting men warm her on cold nights, and she was not ashamed of it.

Did she want to find the love of her life? No, but there was something missing in her life, and she wasn’t likely to find it tomorrow.

This trip to the witch was nonsense, but she kept her mouth shut. Pryanna had suggested it. Cecily had been quiet lately and far too hard on herself. Pryanna had insisted that at least it would be something new and hoped to put a smile on their younger friend’s face.

For Cecily and Pryanna, Althena would do just about anything, so she hadn’t told them that the witch of the wood was a fraud. She didn’t tell them because that would mean explaining how she knew, and Althena was far too proud for that.

The two women who walked next to her were her most treasured friends. They were closer to her than her good-for-nothing brothers and her gambler of a father. Her mother had left them years ago, and Althena had a difficult time growing up in a family of disappointing men. Since childhood, Cecily and Althena had been her lifeline, so for them, she could swallow her pride and face Rubina the witch again.

Idle gossip and laughter kept the mood light until they stood at the entrance to the walkway of Rubina’s cottage. A painful memory sliced through her, and her cheeks heated at the reminder of how she’d cried and begged at the witch’s feet.

Still she’d been denied and cast aside. At the thought of being here again, Althena wanted to hurl.

“Do you think she consorts with demons?” Cecily asked a little breathily.

Why would demons bother with a fraud, Althena though bitterly, but she couldn’t say that out loud. Instead, she wanted to see a smile on her sweet friend’s face.

“There must be some perks to being a witch.”

“Indeed, although I’m afraid that nights with the demons are not one of the perks.”

Althena inhaled sharply at the sound of the familiar voice and turned to see the silver-haired beauty watching them with amusement.

“Mistress,” they all said in unison. Cecily and Pryanna were already curtsying. Not wanting to worry her friends or draw too much attention to herself, she followed suit.

All night, she’d worried what she would do if Rubina recognized her. Would she tell her friends the truth?

“Please call me Rubina.”

That was what she’d said last time, as well. Polite and friendly as though she wasn’t about to wrench away their last hope.

As the witch and Cecily exchanged pleasantries, Althena’s blood roared in her ears. Rubina was so helpful on the surface, but underneath, she was nothing but a fraud. Althena wanted to wrap her hands around the witch’s neck and…

As Rubina waved her hand, Althena was momentarily distracted and the door to the cottage opened. Althena stiffened. That looked like real magic, but it had to be a trick or an illusion. Rubina couldn’t be a witch because if that were the case…

She’d deliberately chosen not to help Althena.

No, that couldn’t be right.

It was a trick. Everything about her had to be a trick.

“Now, let me see,” Rubina mused as they all filed in behind her. “One of you has

come to me before and left disappointed.”

Althena’s knees nearly gave out, but Rubina only gave her a passing secretive smile and moved on. “You have brought nothing but dour expectations for tonight’s ritual, but that’s all right. There is still much I can work with for our doubts are never enough to overshadow our desires.”

More lies.

The witch continued, ignoring the rage simmering in Althena. “One of you has come with nothing but hope in her heart, and for you, this will be the easiest.”

Cecily, no doubt. The woman practically glowed with hope.

“And the last, well, she comes to me with fire. I am afraid your path is already set before you, and there is little I can do but give you advice.”

Fire? That seemed like such an odd thing to say, especially when it came to Pryanna. Fire conveyed thoughts of wild emotions and chaos, but Pryanna was grounded in everything that she did. Subdued and logical to a fault.

Althena chanced a look at her friends and gasped.

They seemed frozen solid. “You are a witch,” she whispered, her thoughts swirling wildly.

Rubina smirked. “Indeed, I am.”

“What have you done to them?”

“Don’t worry about them, my dear. To them, you are the same. ‘Tis nothing more than a bend in time to give us some privacy. When we are finished here, you will all be ready to leave.” Rubina studied her with shrewd eyes.. “When you came here last, I had nothing to offer.”

Fury rose inside Althena. She did remember. How she must have laughed at the tears of a desperate woman. “That is not true. If you can do all of this,” she waved her hands around angrily, “then you could have given me what I wanted.”

“Perhaps,” Rubina said softly. “And in doing so, I might have ruined your life. Did you think of that?”

“I might have been happy,” Not might. She would have been happy. It had been her destiny, and with one word, the witch had ruined it. Ever since then, Althena felt like she was drifting, too afraid to anchor herself to another.

Sighing, Rubina waved her hands and smoke rose from the cracks of the floorboards. In it, a vision appeared of Althena on her knees, arms outstretched to the witch of the wood. “When last you were here, you’d given your heart and your body to a man who would not stay. Fearing what would happen when he left, you asked magic to intervene, and I refused. Let’s see what happened to him.”

The witch snapped her fingers, and the visions changed rapidly. One right after the other. All different men that Althena had taken to her bed. “Well,” Rubina mocked. “Look at this. Not destitute but in charge of your life and dare I say enjoying it?”

Althena had no rebuttal. It was true that she’d made every choice with careful thought. None touched her that she did not wish, and none stayed longer than she deemed them welcome. She was in complete control.

“Now let’s see how he’s doing.”

Gleefully, Rubina clapped her hands, and Althena saw her former lover at a gaming table, losing.

And then another.

And another.

After each loss, he’d tumbled into a woman’s bed only to leave for another Gaming House, until he had nothing but the clothes on his back. In the last image, the handsome man was in a tavern and unable to pay his bill. Large and burly men pulled him up and threw him out.

“Looks like the gambling caught up with him. No, I fear your life would be drastically different had I done what you asked. When I looked into his heart, I did not see you but his love of money.”

“You could have told me.”

“Perhaps,” Rubina allowed, “but then, I suspected you would not have returned, and I have been waiting for you to come back. You are very important, Althena.”

Important to what? To whom?

“The question now, Althena, is what do you want this time?”

As the witch looked pointedly at Althena’s satchel, Althena swallowed hard and gripped the satchel. Wary, she was unwilling to tell the whole truth. “I’ve come to you to bring some joy in my friend’s life.”

“Yet you’ve brought something of great value, and it has nothing to do with your friend.” Reaching out, Rubina closed her fist, and somehow, the pearls dangled from her hold. “A prop which brought you great pleasure.”

Althena shivered as she remembered the way her lover had brushed the beads over her nipples, down her belly, and teased her nub. “They were his.”

“Yes, but you don’t think of him when you see these,’ Rubina murmured. “You think of pleasure.”

“I have had many lovers. None of them have brought me the same kind of fulfillment.”

Some of them didn’t bring her pleasure at all.

“You will not open yourself back up again because you were betrayed, so you hold back. You are lucky, you know. Some women spend their whole lives unable to find the courage to seek their own satisfaction.”

Althena narrowed her eyes. There was something bitter in Rubina’s voice. “Do you know of satisfaction, witch?”

“I know the pain of being without.” Her hand shot into the air, and she threw her head back. “An offering for All Hallows’ Eve so the spirits may guide her to her heart’s desire.”

The witch’s voice boomed and echoed as the cottage melted away leaving only darkness and the strangest purple smoke.

Her friends were gone and only Rubina remained. A maniacal look of pleasure gleamed in her eyes as the smoke touched her and lifted her hair. For the strangest moment, Althena wondered if this was the witch’s true home. She seemed far happier here, in these few blissful moments, than she had back at her own cottage.

Behind her, three shadows writhed.

“See her heart. Strip her bare. Feel the shiver of her heat. Mark her to taste her truth so her love she will meet.”

The pearls disappeared. “Mine,” a voice hissed, and the witch dropped her arms.

Althena stumbled and looked around. It was as if nothing had happened. She was back in the cottage with her friends, and they were looking around in equal astonishment.

Rubina gave them a maniacal smile. “Enjoy your dreams tonight. And may the gods fulfill your heart’s desire.”


A strange quiet settled over them as they walked back, and none of them seemed willing to discuss what had happened. In truth, Althena had no idea what to say. Had they really gone to another dimension? Was it all a hallucination?

After making plans to meet before the masquerade, Cecily separated first leaving Pryanna and Althena alone on the path together.

“I know Cecily did not go see the witch of the wood before nor have I,” Pryanna said softly. “If you do not wish to tell me what happened, I will not force you, but Cecily is not the only friend I have been worried about.”

“Me?” Althena looked up, shocked. “Why would you be worried about me? I’m fine.”

“Yes, you are fine, but you go through life without a sense of joy. It has been a long time since you have shown interest in doing anything different.”

Althena knew better than to think that Pryanna had any disdain for her life. She’d never hidden the fact that she enjoyed men, and her friends would never judge her for it.

“When Gregory was about to leave, I went to the witch,’ Althena admitted quietly.

“I begged her to give me a spell that would entice him to stay. I thought myself so in love with him, and oh, the pleasure he could give me, but she refused. Tonight, she told me it was because she knew that it was not the life I was to have. If the images she showed me are to be believed, he’s lost everything. He could have dragged me down with him, but oh how I hated her then. Maybe even still for mourning a life that would have made me miserable.”

“Have you been searching for love?” Pryanna asked quietly as they walked.

“No. I never wanted someone to hurt me as Gregory did. I never wanted to open myself up again, but maybe that is why I haven’t found what I need.” She sighed.

“I cannot put hope in what just happened, but what we saw, Pryanna! Can that possibly be real?”

Pryanna was always the most sensible of the three. Cecily had the biggest heart, and Althena knew that she brought them joy, but it was Pryanna who held them all together. “Perhaps,” Pryanna said finally. “I could not say what is and is not possible, but I am not like you and Cecily. I have no wish for love.”

No, she wouldn’t. Pryanna watched her mother near drink herself to death after her father left them and swore that she would never be that weak.

If she didn’t want love, then what had transpired between her and the witch?

“So what if the spell is true, and it really does send you love?”

“A spell can only work if you are open to allow it. Since I am not, I do not believe anything different will happen, but for you and Cecily, I hope it gives you everything that you want.”

After embracing, they parted ways. Althena lived closer to the edge of the wood and always felt that the darkness that overcame the forest at night made her feel a little bit more wild and adventurous.

Tonight however, as she glanced out the window before drawing the curtain closed, it only made her feel lonely.

Stripping bare, for she loved the way her sheets felt on her skin, she slipped into her bed and closed her eyes. Sweet dreams, indeed, she chuckled as she remembered Rubina’s parting words. Even if her heart wasn’t racing from the experience she’d just had, she’d be unlikely to sleep tonight. Tomorrow was All Hallows’ Eve, and the masquerade was her favorite time of year. A time to hide behind the mask and delight in the pleasures of the night. A time to allow the wickedness out to play.

A strange heaviness settled on her chest, and her eyes drifted close. Perhaps she would sleep some after all…

There was someone in her room.

Awakening with a start, Althena leapt from the bed and grabbed the dagger she kept on the nightstand. “Who’s there?” She demanded boldly. “I have given you no leave to be in my bedroom.”

“But you have,” a husky voice returned. “You have invited me to look, and touch, and taste.”

Her hands shook, but she refused to be swayed by his silver tongue even if his words made her shiver. “Identity yourself.”

“My name is Dashiel, and I am one of three brought forth by the ritual, only I was the one who stepped forward to claim your offering.” Suddenly, the curtains opened and moonlight streamed into the room. The figure in the corner stepped out, and for a moment, Althena could not breathe.

Dressed in only a pair of loose fitting dark trousers, he was cut so perfectly she could not believe that he was real. Since she was bare to him, she saw no shame in drinking him in, from the high sharp cheekbones to the sinewy muscles of his shoulders and arms and the deep V leading from his sculpted abs to what was hidden beneath the fabric. Crystal blue eyes glittered in the night, and his hair was dark that it blended into the shadows.

He was so beautiful that it wasn’t hard to believe he was made up of wickedness. On his chest, he sported strange purple markings, a language she didn’t understand.

And in his hands dangled her string of pearls.

A moan sounded to her left, and she glanced over her shoulder with a gasp and stumbled away. Two figures were writhing in her bed beneath the blankets.

Two figures she recognized well.

“This is not real,” she breathed as she stared at herself and Gregory moving against each other. “This cannot be.”

“It was real enough when it happened,” Dashiel murmured as he walked over to join her. “There is something so beautiful when two bodies come together with no inhibitions and complete trust. Of course, as it turns out, you should not have trusted him at all.”

Bile rose in her throat, and she turned away. “What is this?”

“It’s a pocket realm created by you and your offering. I cannot leave my realm, so I have to bring you here. At least, I can bring your essence here. Your delectable body is still safely tucked away in your bed.”

Althena had no idea how that made her feel. If her body was there, but her soul was here, she was vulnerable. Anybody could come and…

“Calm your fears,” Dashiel said soothingly. “None will harm you this night. That, I promise.”

“What are you? You cannot be human if you live in another realm. Are you a demon?”

“I suppose that description is as close as any. I was as human as you at one time.”

“What happened?” What could possibly turn a human into a demon?

“I broke an oath, but we are not here to talk about me. We are here to talk about you. Look again, at the lovers in your bed. How do they make you feel?”

Aroused, but Althena had a feeling that Dashiel already knew that. After all, there wasn’t a stitch of clothing to hide her body from him. When he smirked, his thoughts were transparent, and he could see the evidence of her desire.

So that was not what he wanted.

Turning back to the bed, she studied the figures. Herself and Gregory. It was hard to wrap her mind around the concept. It seemed oddly sinful to watch herself fuck another.

There was a time when she desperately hoped to see Gregory again, and while she knew this was not real, she searched herself for the things she wanted to say to him, for feelings that might arise.

There were none. Her heart didn’t break for what she’d lost or lift for what might be. Gregory was her past and nothing more.

How freeing.

Now, she looked at herself and her lover with admiration. Rubina was right. She’d opened herself up to Gregory in a way that she’d never since, and it was a thing of beauty.

“Wistfulness,” she said finally. “Not for him but for what we had. Wistfulness to feel that pleasure again.”

“Yes.” Dashiel reached out and touched her. To her dismay, she turned to him and welcomed his heat. With all the men that she’d taken to her bed, she’d never once taken a complete stranger.

And never one who wasn’t human.

“What do you do?” She whispered as he curved a hand down her side. Her body body trembled in its wake, and his breath was hot on her shoulder before he kissed it gently.

“I will open you up, Althena, and see exactly what you want and need. Only then will I be able to find your match.”

Narrowing her eyes, she stared him. His words were clever but hardly clarifying.

“And how exactly do you plan to open me up?”

Dashiel chuckled and moved his lips up to her neck. Those clever hands came forward and dragged the pearls tantalizing over her abdomen. She wanted to scream for them to go higher.

Or lower.

“You must make an offering.”

Rolling her head to the side to give him better access, she shifted her hips to press back against him and was rewarded with a hiss of his breath. In front of them, the lovers were reaching their fevered pitch.

She was reaching her fevered pitch, just not presently.

“I thought I already made an offering.” Her cunt pulsed to be touched, but his hands stayed just out of reach, circling her abdomen, petting her as she arched against him.

“Yes, to get to me, but now, I need you to give yourself to me. Give me your body so I that I may read your soul.”

A deal with a demon. That couldn’t possibly be a good idea, but she turned in his arms, aroused even more as she knew the lovers in the bed were about to climax.

“What do you get out of it?”

“I am not keeping any part of you, if that is what you fear, but I get a night with you and a taste of the pleasure that I once had.”

“Only a taste?” Althena scowled with offense. “You do not give me much credit.”

Laughing huskily, Dashiel ran his hands through her tangled curls, pulling them back to reveal her neck as he leaned forward and licked her skin. Unable to help herself, she moaned. “I know that tonight is a night that I will never forget, my dear. I had no hesitation in picking up your little string of delights, but I long ago lost myself to a pleasure that would have lasted me a life time, and I pay for it by only having snippets of that pleasure now and then. It is a reminder of what I cannot have.”

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