Bathhouse

The small bronze bell jingled softly as the poorly-fitted door squealed opened. A burst of cold air slammed into the room, shoving out small clouds of incense and other smells into the street beyond. Galidia, the proprietress of the store looked up from her age-scared hands in surprise–people don’t visit this early in the morning. One foggy eye peered toward the front of the store, trying to focus on the fuzzy shape standing next to her rosemary candles.

Sighing with frustration, she called out to the shape as she began to crawl down the half-rotted stool she was perched on.

“Hold on, these eyes don’t see as far as they used to. And don’t steal anything.”

Only a faint laugh, not enough for identification, reached her eyes as she reached the ground. She stood up to her full height, a short 122 cm, and waited for her hands to stop trembling. Still not hearing a response, but also no sounds of things being stolen, she reached out for a low shelf and hobbled over to the door until her visitor came into focus of her ancient eyes.

The stranger was not from around her, she figured that part immediately as her dress was cut differently than the more elegant manner of Franome. Instead of the long, flowing gowns of the rich, she had a long skirt and simple halter top. A smart jacket was casually wrapped around her, showing off the smooth curves of her breasts.

She didn’t have the starving, haunted look of the peasants and her clothes fit her too well. But, her clothes were dirty and a little worn; Galidia’s mind spun for a mere second and she guessed that the woman was a merchant’ daughter or someone middle class who ran out of money.

Galidia’s eyes continued to inspect her guest, admiring the taut stomach that peek from between the top and skirt. Her age-glazed eyes trailed down, admiring the smooth legs that peeked up at her from below the skirt; in an errant thought, the old woman briefly wondered if her guest screamed during sex.

As an old widow, she’s been so long without a lover that even women were beginning to look good. A faint chuckle escaped her lips as she thought about that. The chuckle turned into a rasping cough as she grabbed the shelf tightly. Each wet noise drained a life out of her until she gasped for breath.

Her visitor waited patiently for the coughs to subside. Galidia finally recovered enough to peer up at the strange invading her shop.

“Sorry, the cold air causes the hacking. Please shut the door.”

Her guest closed the door gingerly and turned back. The old woman looked up with a smile, “Welcome, to Galidia’s Candles and,” she struggled not to cough again and just managed, “Incense. How may I help you?”

“Uhh, I’m looking for 2352a Bottle Drive. Is it nearby?” Galidia was surprised the stranger’s voice was soft, but high. There was more than a little hint of culture in her accent and the ancient woman placed her guest from the south, near the Franome-Carium border.

Galidia coughed wetly again and wiped some of the phlegm on her sleeve, “This is 2352 Bottle Drive, there isn’t an ‘a’…”, an ancient memory pushed it’s way up through the years, “oh, wait, there is, isn’t there?”

The young woman, in her mid-twenties by Galidia’s estimate, looked confused. The ancient crone grinned up with a mouth missing more than a few teeth. Her guest smiled back, still confused.

Galidia’s sharp ears hear the growl of the younger woman’s stomach as a brief smell of the local baker drifted through the room. She watched her guest swallow hard and make a show of concentrating on the crone. A nagging idea drifted through the age-filled brain and Galidia smiled sly.

“Do you mind if I eat first?”

Emotions stirred on the younger’s face for a moment: fear, longing, and pain. The old woman nodded and looked closer at her, her eye looking back over the smooth flesh and noticed the shallowness of someone who had more than a passing experience with hunger and suffering. Now that she was looking, she could see them clearly on the young woman.

“Want to join me?”

“I-I can’t. It wouldn’t be proper.” The younger woman started to say more but the crone patted her on the hip and smiled; she thought of her guest naked on her tiny bed, but let the daydream fade away.

“I invited you, girl, so sit down and eat!”

The younger woman hesitated for a second, then nodded. Galidia, forcing back a coughing attack, nodded and hobbled back over to her stool. Her hands shook as she crawled up the rotted wood and perched herself on it’s edge. Her guest followed and looked around for somewhere to sit.

The older woman pointed to a pile on another stool, a sturdier one without padding, “Just shove stuff off.”

Gingerly, the young woman set the candle supplies on the table next to her and sat down. The old woman watched, seeing marks of money and social power in the woman’s movements.

Galidia hacked a couple of times as she pushed a smallish basket across the table. A few hunks of cheese peeked out of the grease-stained cloth covering it. She watched at her guest looked hungrily at the food.

“Go ahead, my dear.”

With another hesitant smile, the young stranger pulled back the cloth to reveal a basket full of fruit, cheese, and bread. Of course, there wasn’t a lot, but it was something. The stranger’s lips grew wetter and Galidia could see the hunger fighting in her eyes.

She reached in and pull at a red, shiny apply. Galidia’s hand reach out and held it down for a second. The young woman tried to drop it, but the steel-hard grip caught her. Growing confused, she looked into the glazed eyes of the storekeeper.

Galidia looked sternly at her, looking the deep brown eyes of her guest, “I don’t feed people who I don’t know their name.”

In the back of her mind, she remembered her bastard of a dead husband saying the same thing before they had sex for the first. But, those memories faded as the young woman spoke in her soft, tender voice.

“I am sorry. Aini is my name, madam.”

“No last name?”

“Hivin, madam.”

“I’m not madam, young whelp. Just,” she fought back a spasm in her throat, “call me Galidia.”

“No last name?” A slight smile crossed Aini’s face and Galidia laughed. Her laughter dissolved into more wet hacking but she soon recovered enough to respond.

“When you’ve done as much as me, you don’t need a last name.”

Aini nodded and stared at the luscious apple. Galidia handed it to her with a smile and Aini attacked it with a three-day hunger. The older woman slowly handed her food and water, forcing her to slow down until Aini sat back, no longer hungry. Her fingers wrapped around the wooden cup as if it was her last drink.

Galidia, after watching her for a while, looked at her shrewdly, “Why are you looking that place?”

Aini looked up, surprised at the conversation. She finished her large bit of the cheese and swallowed hard.

“Huh?”

“2352a. It’s been abandoned for many years.”

Aini blushed slightly and pulled out a thick roll of paper. She unrolled it on the table, careful not to get it wet. Galidia recognized the colors and the art. She gave that piece of paper, many years ago, to the ungrateful bastard who grew up to be her son; it was a legal deed, in case anything happened to her or her husband.

She stared at it in surprised for a few moment before wheezing, “Where’d you get that?”

Aini sat back in surprise of the venom in host’s voice, “My brother said it was his, before he… he… died. Is it… is it legal?”

The last few words where almost a whisper and the old woman instantly knew that Aini came a very long distance in hopes of something better than what she left. She briefly considered saying no, but her heart softened at the trembling brown eyes.

“Depends. Where did he get it?”

“I don’t know. I found it in my brother’s stuff when I had…”

The young woman’s voice trailed off and didn’t pick up again. The older woman examined the paper again, her fingers trembling slightly. Slowly, she turned it over and pulled out a pen. Finding the endorsement line, she signed it with a scrawl.

“Now it’s legal, if you sign here.”

She pushed the pen and paper over to the girl who stared at her with an open mouth. The old woman wondered briefly what it would feel like against her skin, but Aini was already paying attention to the paper in front of her.

“Are you sure?”

“Well, you’re prettier than my son, so yes.”

Aini still looked at her hopefully and the old woman briefly wondered if she could get the young woman into her bed, even for just one night. Noticing the girl wanted a yes or no, she nodded, “Yes, it’s legal.”

Aini’s eyes brightened and she smiled, hesitantly. The old woman hacked and continued.

“It was back when this entire block cost me just a mark every season. Now, I have to pay a hundred every month just to keep this!”

She waves around the depressingly small room, the stool rocking dangerously. Aini started to get up, but the old woman easily brought the furniture under control.

“He was going to make a spa or bathhouse so he and the bastard could see half-naked woman running around. But, he got bored and the bastard left me, again, for someone half his age.”

“Bastard…?”

“The filth-ridden, dung-beetle, lover-of-undead, infernal-spawn of a husband who’s only child was an unloving little brat who thought with nothing but what hung between his legs. I remember when the bastard first came up with the idea to have a beauty contest…”

Aini smiled softly. Sensing the old woman’s need to rant, she listened for many decidays, smiling as the frail grandmother alternated between screaming and explaining all the faults of her ex-husband and son.

As the woman trailed off from her grand stories, she looked sharply at Aini.

“I assume you don’t have any plans?”

“Plans?” Aini’s voice was soft and scared.

“With the building, the house… anything?”

Tears welled up in the young woman’s eyes as she shook her head slightly. The old woman could see silent sobs crash through the young woman’s body, but something prevented them from coming out.

“Husband?”

“I haven’t been with a man for many years.”

“Woman?” Galidia hopes flared briefly, but Aini shook her head. The old woman nodded, her hopes of some human companionship before she died fading away.

“Do you have a job? Money? Family? Skills?”

Aini shook her head to all of them except the last.

“I know a little magic… and some needlework.”

“You were rich once, weren’t you?”

Aini nodded once and suddenly burst into tears. Months of travel, hunger, and hardship seemed to flood out of her system as she sat there sobbing uncontrollably. Galidia crawled down off her stool and hugged Aini’s leg. The young girl slide out of the chair to sit on the ground and held Galidia tightly; streams of tears seem to pour down her face, soaking the old woman’s shirt.

Sniffing, Aini sat back on the rickety stool as the last of the tears stopped flowing. She looked down at the woman with red eyes and sniffed daintily. Galidia patted her on the leg and crawled back up her stool.

“What are you going to do?”

“I-I don’t know. I was hoping that the building would give me ideas, m-maybe a warm place to sleep at night.”

The old woman resisted offering her bed; she thought hard instead of the young woman’s problems.

“Well, I don’t know about ideas, but you might try fixing the place up.”

“With what? I have no money? I-I lost it all…”

“I figured.”

Aini looked up, but the old woman still had something to say, “Depending on how bad it is, I have a little saved up. You could borrow it, with a wee bit of interest, and use it to fix up the place.”

Aini’s deep brown eyes sparkled as hope glimmered in their depths.

“W-Why?”

“I have little to spend on these days and you seem as good of a project as any. Plus, you never know what you might be willing to try next.”

Aini felt some additional meaning in those last words, but she didn’t know what the old lady was hinting at. Galidia saw the confusion and let it past.

“If you are willing to put in a lot of hard work, both here and next door… I’d be willing to front a little money to get the place cleaned up.”

“No one has ever… I don’t know… Thank you.” Aini’s speech was as broken as she was confused, unsure of why the old woman was helping a practical stranger.

The young woman thought for a second, “But, I don’t know anything about spas.”

“Neither did the bastard, but it didn’t stop him from trying.”

Aini’s laugh came out as a half-sob, but she was nodding. The crone caught her hand and looked into her blood-shot eyes. When she talked, her voice will filled with a serious grimness, “This is a lot of work. If you start, finish. If you don’t think you can do it, then go away. If you take my money and flee, I’ll have the city guard on you so fast they won’t hear your screams for a week.”

Aini’s smile dropped as a sinking sensation dropped into her stomach. A faint prickling of sweat dotted her forehead, but she nodded. Her face was set in a serious expression as Galidia’s eye searched her own.

After a second, the crone sat back.

“Help me clean up and we’ll find your 2352a Bottle Drive.”

“Yes, madam.”

“And sign the deed.”

A smile, “Yes, madam.”

Close to an deciday later, just enough time for Aini to frantically clean the store, the two women found themselves outside in the almost deserted street. A pair of guards walked down the street, watching the shadows with suspicious care but ignored the women. Beyond a stray cat, the street was empty.

They were staring at a wooden wall, almost identical to the other walls of the building. It was black with mud, grime, and paint. Occasional swirls of color, from long-forgotten graffiti hinted at an earlier time, but it was gone down. The lower edge of the wall was rotted completely through, showing off mud-soaked bricked and shattered concrete.

The air was filled with the thick stench of urine and Aini’s nose wrinkled in distaste.

“This is it?”

The old woman nodded and tried to say something, but a coughing attack slammed into her and she gasped for breath. Aini, waiting for her unexpected patron to recover, toyed with the thick rod of metal in her hand. The crowbar felt heavy in her arms and already the first twinges of strain tugged at her shoulder.

She stepped forward and pushed at the wood, but it didn’t move under her feeble attempts. Behind her, the crone recovered and looked at Aini’s firm ass closely before responding.

“We had to board it up a long time ago, after the demon summoner.”

Aini jumped back, snatching her hand away as if it was burned.

“Demon summoner!?”

Galidia looked at the pale face and grinned, “Don’t worry girl. Had a priest come in and say the place was cleaned. The only spirit that wasn’t resting was the summoner himself after the city guard came in and… removed him.”

“But, it’s safe?”

The crone nodded, choosing to not tell a few minor details. Instead, she expanded in on the past of the building.

“After the bastard and moron left, I just left the place opened. A few of the homeless called it their home for a few months, but I didn’t mind. They disappeared when the summoner moved in. Didn’t know the boy was into demons until the guards broke in and cut off his head. I wasn’t charged for being an accomplice, but I was stuck with the bill.”

Aini nodded as the old woman continued, “Didn’t have much money at the time, so I just had the place boarder up. That was… close to twenty-seven years ago, in the spring.”

The young woman muttered something and Galidia croaked out a command, “Speak up, girl.”

“Sorry, madam, I was born twenty-seven years ago, in the spring.”

The old woman briefly thought about the age difference, then her thoughts turned to what Aini would feel like wrapped around her hand. Pushing back the thought of a horny women, the old woman shrugged.

“Coincidence.”

Galidia almost fell into another coughing attacks as Aini stared at the wooden wall in disbelief. Her eyes caught the faint outline where a street sign would go and decided it would work out.

Aini was raised a lady, to marry off to the first husband who proved his worth. Her brother, a selfish man, was more interested in gaming and hunting than in taking care of the estates. Before her father died, she never did anything more strenuous then lift her knitting and order the servants around.

She looked down at her hands, scarred and callous. After her dad died, she expected the servants to stay; they didn’t. Soon, it was only her brother and her. She tried to do the chores, but she didn’t know what to do and her brother spent most of his time out in the bars.

One day, he came home with a bundle of stuff. Dropping it on the door frame, he stumbled into the house. She found him in the morning on the couch, dead from alcohol poisoning.

Two weeks later, the tax collectors took away her home.

Now, she was standing in front of a wooden wall with an old lady trying not to cough up one of her lungs. Aini sighed unhappily and hefted the crowbar in her hand. The memories of the pain she went through to get here, the traveling from town to town, begging for rides and avoiding the slavers and rapists. It was not fun, but it showed her a world she didn’t even knew existed a year ago.

Looking down at her crowbar, she felt her arm ache from it’ weight. Looking back at the tiny woman, she raised an eyebrow.

Galidia nodded between spasms and Aini hesitantly stepped forward. She found a crack and shoved the flat end of the crowbar into it. Wrapping her fingers around it, she wondered when the last time she had a man. The intervening memories got in the way and she forced the thought out of her mind.

Taking a deep breath, she pulled down on the crowbar.

It didn’t move.

She tried again and again until her arms and back screamed in agony. Finally, the wood creaked. She looked around, for someone to ask for help, but the street was deserted. Almost on the edge of tears, she forced herself to wrap her hands around the dull metal and pull. Finally, the wood creaked then broke off, throwing Aini to the ground.

A foul burst of wet air followed her, turning her world green for a moment as she struggled not to retch. The old woman, already in a bout of coughing managed to avoid the rancid air; she practically ran for her store entrance and stood there, wheezing while her shaking hand clutched to the door knob.

After an eternity, both woman manage to clear their lungs and look at the dark opening of the forgotten bathhouse. It seemed to hold a promise of something evil. The foul, wet oder of the darkness seemed to wrap around them, strangling them and clutching at them. Somewhere deeper into the darkness, something dripped with a random staccato.

Both women stared at the darkness, trying to identify the sound and orders when Galidia brightened, “That’s were the smell was coming from!”

Aini looked down at the short woman, confusion on her face.

Looking up, the ancient crone explained, “My shop used to just sell candles I made from wax, but then this horrible smell started stinking up the place. I lost a lot of customers and I never had that many to begin with. So, I had to learn how to make incense to cover up the smell. I still have some guests, but not as many as I used to.”

Aini took a deep breath and picked up the crowbar from where she dropped it.

“Might as well get it over with.”

“That’s the spirit!”

Then, the old woman had to sit down as she gasped for breath. Aini felt a brief wave of concern but attacked the wall with her aching muscles and the crowbar.

Almost twenty days later, two hectodays, her muscles still ached. Her arms, legs, back, shoulders, and every other part of her body seemed to scream in agony each time she moved.

After she attacked the door, ripping away the boards among the foul smell and dampness. Then, gagging, she left it alone for a few days to air out. Even after that time, the building still reeked of the horrible smell.

Even though the doorway was tiny, the rooms behind it were huge compared to the rest of the block. A small, narrow hallway lead into a building that dominated the entire center of the city block, almost one hundred meters on a side. Small, half-finished, private tubs were laid out against one wall with a larger, shallow pool in the middle. There were places to undress, to store clothes, and even a small area for drinks or food. It was a very well designed spa, but in very bad shape.

Most of the tile was rotted away or crumbled; years of dampness and humidity broke down the fragile stone and gravity did the rest. A thick layer of slime coated almost every surface. The thick green and yellow fluid had the consistency of tar and clung to every surface with almost an infernal intensity. The only place the slime didn’t stick was the thick black lines of the demon summoner that marred almost every surface. Random symbols, obviously meaning something to someone, were shoved into the corners, on the walls, along the half-broken rail for the bathroom. A circle, also in the black lines, was burned into the floor of the large pool.

Half the time she was in there, she got the feeling she was being watched. On occasion, she would see movement out of the corner of her eyes, but nothing but slime coated the walls when she glanced over.

The air was wet, almost to the point of misting. It smelled of age, slime, mildew, and rot. After a few days, she noticed that all of her clothes, including the ones Galidia managed to find her, smelled just as worse. Every night, she hoped she would get used to the small, but she never did.

The time was spent cleaning up the place. The slime was thick, like jelly, and refused to come off the wall. It resisted fire, Aini’s meager magics, and everything else except a sharp knife and back-breaking work.

After the first couple times she dumped her foul cleaning water on the street, the neighbors and the city guard told her to stop. Soon, she was forced to walk two large buckets of smelly water all the way to the edge of town, just to dump them. If she dropped them in the water, dead fish floated to the surface a few moments later.

The black marks were worse, they refused to come off with anything less than an day’s worth of scrubbing. And that took off less than a few centimeters. After cleaning, her fingers were stained black from whatever the summoner used to draw the lines.

She was pleased to find the source of the hot mist, a natural spring boiled up through rusted pipes, filling the baths with a dark brown and red fluid that left nothing to be desired. She learned a lot about the plumbing as she tried to repair the pipes. Frequently, she would burst or break one of the rust metal tubes and was forced to fix it while being drenched in reddish spring water.

Finally, she manage to repair most of the pipes. She turned the water on, hoping it would clear. After almost a week of running the water constantly, it finally came out clean and smelling faintly of must and sulfur.

Once she had clean water, the cleaning process went faster. But, every night when she crawled into the small cot in the cleanest corner, she was haunted by every muscle in her body aching. Her hands were red and torn by the constant work and her entire body screamed to call a servant to finish the work.

Her dreams were also haunted. Something chased her, sometime Galidia, sometimes something more horrible. Strange scars would appear on her hands, sending bolts of agony through her body as she struggled to wake up. Every morning she woke up screaming and swearing never to return. But, the old crone wouldn’t accept no for an answer and would feed her and shove her back into the filth building.

The only real bright point was Galidia. The old woman took care of her, treating her as a daughter she never had. Food showed up at random times, never a lot but more than she had on the last month of her trek to Franome.

The first time Aini forgot and accidentally called Galidia mother, the old crone almost exploded in joy. After that, the young girl affectionately referred to Galidia as her mother.

Brimming with joy, the ancient crone would also bring in incense and candles, letting Aini work until early morning trying to clean up. When Aini tried to refuse, Galidia forced her to eat or take the candles; she refused any payment except to sit with her at dinner.

As the two weeks came to an end, Galidia found herself walking into the semi-clean bathhouse to hear Aini sobbing. Concerned, she hobbled deeper into the spa until she found the young woman wailing as hard a she could. Her hands were covered in white mud. More of the white stuff, some of it powder, some of it like mud, streaked her face, hair and even her clothes. Scattered around her, the old woman could see brightly colored tiles resting among the supplies. Most of the tile were also streaked and coated in the drying cream mud.

As the crone watched, Aini looked at the wall in front of her, which was covered in a layer of white concrete, and burst into fresh tears. Setting down her bag, Galidia hobbled over and touched Aini’ shoulder. The young woman turned around, and seeing Galidia, hugged her tightly. Her sobs came harder and faster as she held the old woman tightly.

For almost ten minutes, Aini sobbed and cried. Touched, the old woman just stroked her hair, trying to figure out what happened.

Finally, Aini sat up and wiped away the tears from her face and sniffed. Galidia looked at the young woman in the light of the candles.

The last two weeks added muscles to her curves, adding a sense of power underneath the soft surface. Even with her ancient age, the old woman felt more attracted to her. Also, a great joy filled her still beating heart; the joy came from watching Aini grow as a human, learning to do things on her own and finding a confidence in herself. The dark memories of her husband and child were slowly being replaced by Aini’s laughter and joy as she figured something out or completed a small task. More laughter came as they spent their nights talking about the floor-plans, the theme, even the clients they might get.

Aini felt this memory in Galidia’s probing eyes and blushed. Galidia coughed a few times to distract her, but the pain of her spasm has lessened as the bathhouse was cleaned up.

Holding Aini’s hand tightly, the crone looked into her eyes with concern and whispered softly.

“What happened?”

Raging emotions crossed her face as Aini struggled not to burst into tears. Finally, she manage to push them down and explain in a thin, barely controlled voice.

“I got the tiles and grout from the tile-maker down the street. When I asked how to put them in, they told me to mix this power,” she pointed to a pile of the cream-colored powder, “with some water until it felt like mud. Then to spread it over the tiles, which I glued to the wall and let it dry.”

She came close to bursting into tears again. Galidia watched as she struggled with her emotions. It came close a few times, but the old lady was patiently. Aini took another deep breath and finished.

“Now, it won’t come off.”

She failed to control the emotions this time and burst into tear again. She hugged Galidia tightly and the old woman let her cry it out. After a few moments, Galidia stroked Aini’s hair.

“Don’t cry, little one,” Aini snorted in laughter from the short woman’s comment, but Galidia continued, “it’ll work out. You’ve done so much and worked so hard.”

Galidia pointed to a small patch that was perfectly done, “You go some right.”

The young woman shook her head, “I-I didn’t do those. At least… I don’t remember doing it.”

Frowning, the old woman shrugged, “No matter. I have faith in you.”

Aini pulled back, “But, I have so much to do. You’re running out of money, and I… I…”

The crone smiled softly, ignoring her own growing fear of running out of funds, “Shush. Don’t worry about that now. Why don’t you take a long, hot bath and relax.”

“I don’t have time… I need…” Aini’s voice trailed off at the stern look the old woman gave her. She started to say something, but Galidia interrupted her.

“No. Take a bath… now!”

A cough threatened to disable her, but Galidia forced it down until the girl nodded. As the old woman was attacked by another fit, Aini sighed and stood up. She managed to clean one tub completely, it was one of the bright spots in the dark, filthy room.

Taking one last look at the solid wall of white concrete, she nodded and headed deeper into the bathhouse, to her bath. The old woman briefly considered following her, but changed her mind. She hobbled out of the spa and shut the new door behind her, leaving Aini in peace.

Aini walked with exhaustion into the cleaned room, stripping off her clothes as she moved. In a few moments, she was naked, her breast pushing up into the air as she used her foot to open the valve to the tub. The half-rusted chrome squeaked before letting the clear fluid slowly fill up the tiled tub.

She looked in the mirror, admiring herself. The weeks of hard work had really trimmed her body. Her fingers stroked against soft skin, feeling the muscles underneath. One finger slide down her stomach through the brown patch of pubic hair, then slide across her hip and up along the curve of her right breast.

The water lapped at the edge of the tub as she gratefully sunk into the steaming liquid. Her toe reach out and turned off the valve, stopping the flow of hot spring water. Sinking deeper into the steaming water, Aini let loose a happy sigh and closed her eyes.

She floated in the deep pool for a while, letting her muscles relax and trying not to think of the painful twinges that reminded her of her work. As she soaked in the water, she let her mind wander. It drifted across the memories of cleaning up the bathhouse, the troubles she went getting her from her former home.

Then, her thoughts trailed back to Trerab, an awkward farm boy who took her virginity in the back of one of the barns. She laughed to herself as she remembered how many times it took for his short shaft to find her semi-dry hole. It hurt at first, it felt good after a few minutes. It was even better the next time.

Thoughts of sex drifted through her mind, over the two other lover she had and the multiple of fantasies she lived in her bed at night. She was imagining them so hard, she felt their feather-light touch against her feet.

Moaning softly, she stretched out for her imaginary lovers, remembering the feel of their skin and the flood of their cum as it coated her inner thighs. Even though she remembered them as clumsy and awkward, her imaginary lover stroked her with the soft touch of someone who knew her body.

The feather-light touches moved up her legs, exploring her thigh and knees. Aini’s moans were muted in the hot water as she gently parted her thighs, enjoying the memories as they became more vivid and colorful.

A smile crossed her lips as she remembered more details, their faces, mannerisms, and even smell. She also imagined them as they stroked their hands along her body, sliding slick fingers against her breasts and shoulders. Their gentle fingers slid along her hard nipple and wrapped around them, tugging at the nubs and sending small shoot of pleasure along her flesh.

More touches caressed her body, some firm, some light. Her body tingled after her dream’s caress, but it warmed her skin as she shifted slightly in the water.

Caught in a pleasant, floating sensation, Aini started to pick through her memories, taking bits and parts of her lovers, the men she’s seen and met in her years, and even some of the fantasy lover she’s dream about. There was a clarity to her memory as she took those bits and started to spin together a perfect lover.

As she formulated what her lover would be like, she could imagine how he would slide his hands down her side, evoking a moan from her chest and nuzzles his mouth against the aching nipples. Even though her body ached, she felt it responding to her imagination with an intensity that scared her.

Even as he stroked, sucked, and touched her, his hands would continue to slide down, feeling like they were touching everything, and up against her hot sex.

Aini’s legs parted in the water until her knees brushed against the tiled sides of the tub. Her hands started to move down, but stopped a her imagination pulled back. She decided to enjoy the almost-physical sensations of her own fantasies and let her hands drop into the hot water of the tub.

She continued to build, explore, and admire the perfect lover as he formed in her mind, caressing her body. His strong fingers brushed against her nether lips, sending more bolts of pleasure along her spine as his fingertip caressed and stroked the sensitive outer lips.

The only thing that confused her is that, in her dreams, he seemed to have hundreds of long fingers instead of hands. It seemed to match the caresses against her skin.

Her mouth opened slightly, to feel his kiss, salty and sweet. Hi tongue brushed against her lips, feather-light and delicious as he started to explore her mouth as his hands explored her sex.

More feather-light touches brushed against her, teasing almost every centimeter of her skin as they stroked and explored her knees, feet, sides, neck, and hair.

Her soft moans were muffled now by his kiss as she felt his finger, probably his smallest, slip up against her inner folds. The flexible tip nuzzled it’s way to her pleasure and stroked up against the hard fold of her clitoris.

Her gasp was also muffled as lightning bolts of pleasure arched back up along her spine. She strained to keep her eyes shut, to enjoy the often missed pleasures of a lover, even if he was imaginary. The bathhouse and even the crone were forgotten as she allowed a faint wave of pleasure to ripple through her body.

Her lover’s fingers seem to slide into her sex, gently holding apart the thick folds to send his smaller fingers against the opening of her sex and against her clitoris. His fingers probed and explored as one of his fingers gently slide into her aching sex, filling the tight opening with it’s girth.

Aini felt her back arch as the finger slide in and out, teasing her inner core with sensations she thought she forgot. The trailing finger along her body fades as she focused on the feelings of being kissed and fingered by her spectral lover.

Her tongue flicked out, exploring the hot mouth of her imagination, enjoying the feeling of light touches along it. More tendrils of pleasure slid into her mouth, exploring her insides with the same curious, but firm, gestures of the wonderful fingers plunging into her depths.

Fluttering, her eyes began to open, but a soft, warm pressure held them shut. She felt it stroke her face and teased her scalp and she relaxed into it; it no longer felt like one man, but hundreds loving her at the same time. The image in her mind blurred for a moment before she focused on it.

Pleasure teased her senses as she felt her labia part further a more fingers slide into her body, stretching her opening slightly more and plunging deep into her core. More pleasure flared out from there a the fingers touched and explored every crevice of her insides, teasing the opening of her womb and pulling out to wrap around her erect clitoris.

Her muffled moan became more insistent as she thrust her hip against her dream lover’s fingers, enjoying them as they plunged faster and deeper into her body, send thick bolts of pleasure to ever inch of her skin.

The sucking and stroking of her nipples and breasts overwhelmed her as more of her body reacted to the lover, sending building waves of pleasure up and down her spine.

Her lover’s tongue left her as she moaned with its retreat. Then her moans turned more frantic as the wiggling fingers increased their frenzy, moving against every centimeter of her flesh, both inside and out. Her body was paralyzed by the bolts of ecstasy that came from everywhere, flooding her system with building walls of pleasure.

Her orgasm slammed into her with the force of a charging dragon. Her scream of pleasure echoed against the tiled walls of the room a her body arced and pulled itself out of the water.

The second wave of pleasure slammed into her and her entire body tensed, her breasts quivering with each shuddering breath as she rode the intense waves like her life depended on it. Her fingers clenched air until her body finally relaxed and all tension poured out of her.

With a splash, she landed back in the water, half aware of her surroundings as her mind basked the afterglow of her intense orgasm. With a start, she realized she still had her eyes closed.

As she started to open them, she felt another feather-light touch against her eyes and realized she was still in some sort of half-dream. The pressure holding her face was gently but it was obvious it wanted her eyes shut. A strange smell filled her senses for a moment, one she smelled before but couldn’t quite remember.

Her body felt empty as she parted her legs; her lover had left her ill-used sex. Even though she lost the image of her phantom lover in her mind, she could still feel the tendrils of pleasure caressing her. They stroked and touched her, teasing her breasts, throat, and even scalp as they massaged her body.

Her moans were softer, more relaxed, as the thousands of stroking sensations built up her pleasure, one nerve at a time. Soon, she was writhing in the pool, thrusting her hips for something to pleasure. Frantic whimpers echoed in the room as she begs the silent fingers to please her, to fill her body with their hardness.

Finally, as the pleasure slowly built, her requests were answered. Something thick and hard and very hot pressed lightly up against her sensitive labia and Aini moaned in pleasure. The thickness moved slowly up and down, soaking up her juices that still clung to her in the scented water.

Aini pushed her legs apart until her hips ached with her efforts. As she relaxed, she felt the feather-light touches against her skin tenderly wrap around her legs, holding them apart for the hardness poised to enter her body.

Her whimpers, desire to be entered, grew lower as the hardness continued to slide up and down, but not into her hot depths. Her hip thrusted against it, but it backed up. With her legs trapped, she couldn’t follow the hardness until it returned to nuzzle at her aching opening. Her breasts heaved with each breath as she tried to will the hard smoothness into her slit and deeper into her body.

Slowly, the pressure of the rounded tip increased as it continued to slide up and down. Her lips were pushed out of the way as it nuzzled deeper; soon the tip was caught in the ring of her opening and it started to push and pull with tiny movements.

Aini’s back arched once against as the thickness of her lover’ cock began to burrow it’s way into her sex, filling her aching tunnel as it pushed deeper into her body. Thick ridges teased every part of her labia as it easily penetrated her body in tiny little movements.

Her pleasure building, Aini felt her hips thrusting against the wiggling shaft but it continued it’s slow motion. Further and further it pierced her body, shoving nerves and flesh aside as it stroked deeper inside.

Aini’s moan turned into a single wail of pleasure as she feel the hard thickness easily slide into her body, stroking her inner walls, until it bumped up against the end of her depths. Even then, it continued to push, sliding over the hard knob of her cervix to the very limits of her core.

Her wail turned almost frantic as the hardness reversed it’s course and slowly withdrew, tugging at her labia with each ridge as it left her body. Her wail dissolved into whimpers she felt the delicious smooth shaft leave her body until only the rounded tip stood poised at her entrance.

The second thrust was faster, shoving aside pleasure nerves in one long stroke as it bottomed out inside her body. Aini’s neck tenses with the sudden wave of pleasure, so raw after her first orgasm. Before she could respond, the hardness vacated her body almost as fast.

Less than a second passed before a third, then a fourth, and then many more thrusts plunged into her body, pleasurably scraping against sensitive nerves to bury deep inside her tight sex, then yank out with an almost mechanical motion.

Aini’s moans echoed against the room, interrupted by the staccato thrusts of the hard shaft burying itself between her legs. She could feel her legs strain to close, to tighten around her lover, but the feather-light tendrils, still stroking, prevented her. She was pulled apart for her imaginary love and was loving each moment of raw pleasure.

As she felt another orgasm build, she willed her lover to come inside her, to fill her with the hot wetness she remembered from before. She didn’t hear a response but she felt the hardness plunge harder and harder, curling slightly inside her to fill her with a thick knot before slipping out of her body.

Her world focused on that shaft as it plunged inside her, nothing existed except the plunging sensations and her own growing orgasm. With each thrust, it flared inside her, filling her body with hot light of her pleasure.

When she felt her body could take no more of the intense pleasure, she felt it explode inside her. The hardness swelled to her very limit and soon a hot, liquid warmth flooded her insides. The very sensation of her lover’s orgasm triggered her own orgasm and her vision behind closed lids exploded into an intense white light as her body left her control.

Bolt after bolt of pleasure coursed through her nervous system, firing again and again as she felt the hardness dominate her world. Each twitch, every shudder seem to burn more of the hard shaft deeper into her mind and soul.

As her orgasm slowly faded and the afterglow began to mellow into a thick feeling of pleasure, she opened her eyes, happy.

Aini was expecting anything but what she saw. She half expected to see Galidia in the bath with her, or even just alone with her fantasies. What she didn’t expect to see was the immense mass of wiggling tentacles.

Her mouth opened in surprise as she watched the thousands of dusty-gray tendrils boil and weave in her vision. Her eyes slowly moved down to her legs as she watched them unravel around her body and pull back into the faucet.

Beginning to shake in shock, her eyes moved further, between her legs where a hard, thick tentacle was firmly buried into her sex. The sensations of her lover felt the same, but there was some insanity as she watched centimeter after centimeter slowly slip out of her body, leaving an aching emptiness behind.

When she saw the rounded tip slip out of her sex with burst of her juices and it’s cum floating in the water, she brought her mind into focus. Slowly, she started to pull herself out the water, backing away from the tentacles.

They did nothing to stop her, instead watched from a distance without eyes. She felt naked as she shivered. She finally backed out of the tub and moved slowly to the door.

They did nothing.

Her naked body was ignored with her sudden impulse to flee the horrible vision in front of her. Her hand gripped for a towel, but it was gone.

They did nothing.

Her fingers clutched against the door frame and she slipped past it, putting the tiled wall between her and the tentacles that massed in her tub.

She sighed and turned around. As soon as her eyes came into focus, she screamed loud and hard. The high-pitched voice almost cracked the tile with the intensity, but that didn’t bother the rest of the tentacles.

Thousands upon thousands of the tentacles filled the room, brushing and tapping against the walls. Even more, thicker than the one that penetrated her waved in the air, like snakes. Some of the larger tentacles were as long as she was.

Her body began to shake again as she tried to see the exit and plan her escape. But, the large mass of stone-gray tendrils blocked her vision. Her body, still flush from her orgasm, seemed far away as she looked around.

Then, something caught her eye. One of the tendrils was chipping away at the white grout on the tile. Briefly curious and very scared, she looked a little closer, careening her neck for a better sight. A if reading her motions, the tendrils peeled away from the wall, exposing the brightly colored tile she put there earlier int he day. The grout no longer covered the tiles, but was scoured away to leave clean lines. Even some of the tiles she put on crooked were straightened.

She could see more of the tentacles cleaning away the last of the mess. Even the dark, supernatural lines of the demon summoner were disappearing underneath the efforts of the millions of tiny tendril that toiled against the wall, floor, and ceiling..

Her fear was forgotten as she watched in surprise as the tentacle cleaned her bathhouse, pulling off rust, grime, and slime from the walls, fixtures and even the ceiling she was dreading.

“What the…”

Her voice trailed off as she watched in surprise, unable to comprehend what was happening.

A motion below her attracted her attention. Looking down, she saw a single gray tendril, about as thick as her index finger, wiggle toward her. She watched it as it gently stroked against her foot.

When she didn’t do anything, it started to slowly curl around her leg and start to slide up.

==

Two years later, things were very different. Aini slowly walked among her patrons, enjoying the sweet smell of Galidia’s incense. The crowd was talking low among themselves as naked men and women dipped in the hot spring water and teased each other.

It was a time of celebration and the men and women there were doing their best to enjoy it. Aini spotted a few second sons and daughters of the city nobles and smiled.

She was naked also, except for purse around her neck. Her belly, six months pregnant, still had the defining layer of muscle over it. Her left hand continuous drifted down to rub the smooth surface as she happily chatted with her friends and clients.

Slowly, she made her way down a narrow corridor, talking with a few guests. About six months ago, she expanded the bathhouse to take up the entire block. She was making enough money now.

One of the doors opened and Galidia, naked and flushed, stepped out, leaving the door opened. Her skin still was covered in the wrinkles of age, but her breath was strong and sure. The last two year had put a little tone into the crone’s body also, leaving a spry woman behind.

Aini smiled,“Hello, mother.”

Galidia smiled warmly and her heart warmed up more hearing her adopted daughter call her mother. Aini’s eyes twinkled as she looked into the room, seeing no one.

“Are you enjoying him again?”

Galidia blushed and nodded, “Yeah, I needed a break before I sung again.”

Aini smiled and knelt to hug the tiny woman; she strained a little standing up and used the wall for support. Galidia patted the rounded stomach, enjoying the feel of smooth flesh under her hand; Aini never bedded her but the old woman, feeling younger than before, still wanted her.

“Take care, little one,” Aini smiled at their joke, “I think he gave us a wonderful gift.”

Aini laughed, a clear sound filled with joy and contentment, “You lost your cough and poor health, I,” she empathized the word, “somehow manage to get pregnant.”

“Always wanted a grandchild.”

Aini’s and Galidia’s laughter sparkled in the air as a tiny gray tendril filled in a crack in the tile with some grout. It waved in the air, tasting the smells of incense and candles, then slid back into the faucet.

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