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A note from Selkie

AN: 

 

This chapter and the next go together. Back when I posted it originally on Patreon, I double-posted it. 

Sorry, I don't have the backlog to doublepost on RR.

 

This chapter had mixed reception on Patreon. A few people declared they were dropping the story, never to return. Just as many people PM'd me to tell me it made them cry. And that was before the comments, whoof.

 

I have a banhammer. I will use it liberally. Please don't make me swing it.

I like writing more than pure fluff. I like my stories to have some weight to them. Hence ethics, tough decisions, moral ambiguity, and more!

 

Sometimes, I hit it out of the park. I think the plague arc was some of my best writing.

Sometimes, I'm not sure I do a great job of things, or making them super interesting. In re-reading and editing this chapter, I don't think I managed to make it super interesting. It came off more preachy than I intended. And it bled over a little to the next chapter as well. Only half of it.

 

 Action resumes Monday!

Without going into too many details, or too many axed storylines, this chapter does server two important purposes:
It "shakes out" the last few problems the elf arc had, and wraps up a number of those storylines that I'd started working on, but couldn't quite complete.

I did a lot of reading as a kid, teenager, and adult. My head was, quite frankly, more than a bit in the clouds, and I'd gotten poor ideas on sex and relationships, having mostly gotten them from bad books. This chapter (and part of the next one) in a lot of ways, is the chapter that I wish young Selkie had read and known way back when. A realistic, frank look at how things work.

A lot of stuff I write is stuff I think I'd love and enjoy, or would make me think hard if I wasn't the author.

 

I like to compare writing to food. The Wandering Inn is a gigantic buffet - endless foods of all types. Cinnamon Bun is cotton candy. Tons of fluff. I'd like to think I write a healthy, balanced meal, with a bit of everything needed for a balanced diet. This chapter is basically a salad. A plain, lettuce-only salad. Good for you, but not super tasty.

 

With all this said, Wednesday's chapter should be satisfying.

 

OK! Enough rambling from me! ONTO THE CHAPTER!

=============================================

The elves had agreed to give me a few days to process being nearly murdered again. I was seeing the value in it, given how I was feeling like poorly pieced together pottery at the moment, just a stiff breeze away from shattering.

 

I wasn’t going to break though. I was stronger than that.

 

Still, there wasn’t a ton to do currently besides goofing off.

 

I’d quickly skimmed the book I’d been given, which was about as boring as it’d looked. Then Aegion had helped me carefully scrape the pages, getting the ink cleared off while preserving the vellum underneath.

 

The Medical Manuscripts were being written again!

 

I didn’t want to write all day though, my hand got cramped and I could only focus on the task for so long. I wasn’t thinking of what I needed to write anymore, which was how I’d done it before. No, this time around I was just transcribing it from memory.

 

I loved [Pristine Memories] for stuff like this.

 

Still, the sun was starting to get low, and I shook yet another cramp out of my hand, putting the quill down. I eyed my spot, and with a sigh, picked it back up, licked the end - ink tasted terrible - and dipped it back into the inkpot. I finished a few more sentences, then leaned back to examine my work.

 

“How’s it going?” Awarthril hovered over me. “Everything ok? Any issues I can help you with?”

 

I waved a hand lazily.

 

“Nah, I’m fine. Thanks! Just finished up this section of the book, going to call it a day.”

 

Awarthril leaned over my shoulder, squinting to read the tiny, cramped text I’d written.

 

“Well. I don’t quite understand all of that, but Elaine, this is amazing! I can’t wait to see it done. And you’re sure you want to give it to us?”

 

Awarthril reading over my shoulder out of sheer curiosity was going to get my [Oath] revealed. It was going to end up in the book, but once I wrote it down? The cat would be out of the bag.

 

I didn’t want the elves to know about it, but there was strong potential for some serious good here. If the elves thought my Medical Manuscripts were good stuff? If they spread it around?

 

It’d help thousands, if not tens of thousands of people. I didn’t dare dream larger. What was my life balanced against those sorts of scales?

 

It wasn’t even like my worse-case scenario would leave me dead. Just… detained for a few dozen years.

 

“Well, yeah. I’ve got a few dozen copies circulating at home, and there I can just pay a blasted scribe to do this for me!”

 

I glared at the offending implements, like they were personally responsible for my decision to re-write the entire Medical Manuscripts again.

 

Awarthril coughed, and I reddened.

 

Right. She’d offered to do the writing for me, but something in her tone when she’d offered had made me bristle and reject her, insisting that I do it all myself.

 

I blew on the ink one last time and slammed the book shut. Without saying anything else, I extracted myself from the conversation, and cheeks burning, put everything away in the Spatial Box, before heading over to the little hut Serondes had made for us.

 

I got inside and breathed. In, and out. Just let it go.

 

Speaking of embarrassment, I wasn’t getting any younger - ok, I could, I had a super-rare skill just for it - and it was time for Serondes and I to have a serious talk.

 

First, I changed into the nice new dress I’d been given. Why not? I liked the Mistweave well enough, but wearing the same outfit day after day after day was getting real old. I’d done it enough with armor sets.

 

The material was silky, and the cut in a somewhat daring style. It was nice, but not, like, super special to me. There was none of the emotions or history needed for it to be special.

 

I poked my head out of the little hut.

 

“Hey Serondes! Wanna come over?” I called out in my best ‘alluring Elaine’ voice. Irresistible to any person I had my eyes on!

 

“Give me a few minutes, I’m busy!”

 

I put my hands on my hips. Fortunately, as I was formulating the right devastating reply, Aegion saved my bacon.

 

“Serondes, given how nice Elaine is dressed up, maybe you shouldn’t wait a few minutes.”

 

Serondes glanced over at me, then did a double-take. He looked at what he was doing, put it down, and came on over.

 

“Come here you!” I flirted with him, pulling him into the hut and closing the door.

 

He swept me into his arms, and we spent some time kissing. He picked me up, and started to lay me down on our bedrolls when I put a hand on his chest.

 

“Serondes. Let’s have a talk.”

 

He paled.

 

“Nothing good has ever come from that sentence.” He complained as he complied.

 

“Well, let’s talk about sex.” I settled myself down in a comfortable sitting position.

 

Mostly. There was one bit of the dress that was catching and just not quite there.

 

Focus.

 

“Yes. Frequently, epically, twice daily?” Serondes asked the last part as a question.

 

I half-punched him in the arm. I could see why Awarthril got annoyed with him at times.

 

“Har har. No, seriously. I want to make sure we’re on the same page with a bunch of things before we go much further.”

 

He sat up straighter.

 

“I’m listening.”“Good! We’ve got a lot to talk about. Sex, consent, boundaries, health, acts, and probably a few more.” I ticked the points off my finger one at a time.

 

He waggled his eyebrows.

 

“Let’s do acts first!”

 

“That’s kinda not the order I was hoping to do things in… but sure… wait no. No, gotta hit the other things first.” I was kinda babbling, able to feel every heartbeat.

 

He shrugged.

 

“Alright, go!”

 

Start at the start I guess.

 

“What does consent mean to you?”

 

“Well, I ask if you want to have sex, you say yes, then we have sex.”

 

I rubbed my eyes. Close, yet so, so far.

 

“Ok, you’ve got some basic ideas. First off, I can obviously say ‘no’ if I don’t want to have sex.”

 

“Sure.”

 

I should’ve written notes on what to talk about, in what order. I was kinda winging it. Like a butterfly.

 

“Let’s talk about getting consent. As you said, you - or me - asks, and the other person confirms or denies it. Then we can get started! It’s that easy.”

 

“Asking for consent isn’t sexy. I don’t want to kill the mood. What’s wrong with just slowly going, and seeing what happens or when the other person asks to stop?”

 

“Well, for the second part, I dunno how often you’ve seen things from a woman’s point of view.” My tone was a little dry, but a tiny bit curious. For all I knew there was magic that would let Serondes do something like that. “It’s entirely possible for someone to start taking liberties, and ignoring some non-verbal cues to stop, thinking it’s ‘sexy’ or ‘a game’. Then the woman stops, because she’s scared of getting hurt, or killed, and just lets things happen.”

 

I paused for a moment, letting Serondes soak that in. I breathed in a few times rapidly, and let a fear of mine explode out of me.

 

“Serondes, push come to shove, you could kill me with a thought. I’d barely be able to resist. I don’t think you realize how scary that is for me, or how incredibly vulnerable I need to make myself to do anything around you. So please. Make me comfortable. Make it clear that you’re not a threat to me, or threatening me.”

 

I swallowed the lump in my throat, watching the gears turn in Serondes’s head as he processed all of that. I felt the back of my dress getting soaked. Finally, he nodded.

 

“Makes sense. I wouldn’t want to be with a woman who was that much stronger than me, because you’re right. That is scary.”

 

Ok, so… fine, I guess he got the idea. I felt my heart lifting up at that, and gave him my best smirk.

 

“Also, wanna bet on the asking for consent thing?” I boldly stated. He eyed me.

 

“Sure.”

 

I leaned closer to him, letting him get a good view as my mouth practically touched his ears.

 

“I want to go down on you at the end of this. Is that ok?” I tried my best ‘seductive’ voice, and leaned back. From how Serondes’s cheeks flushed and pupils got huge, I’d say I succeeded. I gave him a little wiggle, smirking at him.

 

“Sexy or not?” I challenged. He held his hands up.

 

“Sexy, sexy, fine! Asking for consent can be sexy, if done right.”

 

I laughed at that.

 

“Ok, sure.” I put on my best mechanical voice.

 

“Serondes. Elf. May. I. Place. Food. Receptacle. On. Your. Chatter. Exit?”

 

He looked somewhat horrified at me. I’d killed the mood somewhat, but eh. I wasn’t here for making a good mood.

 

“See? All in the way you ask.”

 

He thought about it a moment.

 

“Can I bend you over later?”

 

“Yes, but that touches on something else. Be specific! Bending me over is fine. But I don’t think you were talking about just bending me over now were you? You wanted to do more than that.”

 

“Sure, but do I need to be explicit about it?”

 

“The first time? Yes. Especially if we’re not sure where we are on all the different types of sex and sex acts we want to perform, and that we’re good with.”

 

“Isn’t it self explanatory?”

 

I shook my head, letting my hair wave around.

 

“Let’s pretend, for a second, that I had a habit of…” I glanced down significantly, and squeezed my hands together. “Crushing grapes. Making them just go pop. I’m a healer after all, I can fix it. For all you know, I find that lots of fun.

 

Serdones crossed and recrossed his legs.

 

“Wouldn’t you want some heads up before I started going pop?”

 

“Yes, but that’s not the same!”

 

“How do you know it’s not the same? Maybe something perfectly normal for you is entirely unacceptable to me. That’s why we’re here, now. Talking. So we establish boundaries with each other. So we know what’s ok without asking - like how we kiss all the time - how we know what’s OK with asking, and how we know what’s off-limits, and what shouldn’t even be asked.”

 

I could see Serondes processing all this. He nodded.

 

“Ok, can I touch your chest?”

 

“In private, sure! Not in front of everyone though. Don’t need to ask even.” I winked at him, and he moved forward, taking the liberty he just asked for.

 

“How about your butt?”

 

“Same thing. Can I touch your butt?”

 

Serondes slipped a hand under my dress, caressing my leg up to my ass, then starting to feel me up with his other hand before he answered.

 

“Yeah.”

 

I gave the object in question a hefty squeeze over Serondes’s robe.

 

“Can I stick a finger where the sun don’t shine?” My eyes were twinkling at him.

 

“Um, no. Heck no.” He said as his hands withdrew.

 

“See? Talking about this tells us where our boundaries are, and what we are and aren’t ok with. Without the talk…”

 

I glanced down significantly, and squeezed my hands into fists.

 

“Grapes.”

 

A thought struck me, and I added it in to make sure I wouldn’t forget later.“And just because I’ve said yes at some point, doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind later.”

 

“Well….” Serondes kinda trailed off there. “Even if we’re in the middle of doing it?”

 

“I mean, are you willing to be somewhat adventurous with me?” I asked.

 

“Sure!” Serondes’s enthusiasm was transparent.

 

“Well, what if I wanted to try something on you, and you decided in the middle that you really, really, didn’t like it?”

 

“We’d stop.”

 

“Exactly! See, revocable.”

 

I got a nod from him.

 

“What about quickly finishing up?”

 

I gave him a glare, and mentally calmed myself. We were discussing this for a reason, and Serondes was, so far, adjusting and adapting. On one hand, it shouldn’t be my job to teach him this stuff. On the other, he was listening and receptive, and it was stuff he needed to know at some point.

 

“Then we’d have a Very Serious problem. No. Consent is revokable, and when it’s revoked, it’s immediately revoked. No continuing, no quickly finishing, nothing. Lemme phrase it this way. You’re having sex with a woman who isn’t consenting. What’s that called again?”

 

“But she consented earlier?”

 

“That doesn’t matter in the slightest. My earlier definition still applies. Plus, how enthusiastic would I have been in the first place if I’m revoking things in the middle, or how badly have things gone? People don’t revoke consent in the middle just to screw with you.”

 

That seemed to get through to him.

 

“Alright, alright. I want to talk more about different things we’re willing to do with each other.”

 

“Can we detour for one quick moment? Just want to talk about obtaining consent for a quick second.”

 

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?”

 

“Yeah, and we’re doing great so far. I just wanted to bring up pressure for a moment.”

 

“I’m feeling pressured by this whole conversation!” Serondes joked.

 

“Yeah yeah. Look, is consent really consent if you’re threatening someone into it?” I asked what I hoped was a rhetorical question.

 

“Well, no.” Serondes came through for me. I might’ve needed to dump him if he said yes.

 

“Ok, what about pressure? Like, there’s degrees of pressure. Is blackmail still a threat? Is threatening others? Those should be easy. But then we get into other problems, like power dynamics.”

 

“Tell me more.”

 

I could kiss him. And I did.

 

And touched his butt, since he’d said earlier it was ok to do.

 

“It ranges from obvious to less obvious, to subtle and insidious.” I said. “By the way, can I take your clothes off?”

 

“Any time, any place.” Serondes suggested. I facepalmed a bit.

 

Almost.

 

“At a formal event? In front of kids? In-”

 

“Point taken, but Elaine, you also have your own good judgement. Forgive me for thinking you’d apply it.” Serondes cut back.

 

Ouch. He was right.

 

Focus.

 

Moving on.

 

“The biggest issues is when sex becomes transactional, and the transactions aren’t tiny.” I went back to consent. “Like if a guard’s arrested someone, and offers them freedom for favors. Or someone owns slaves, and makes demands. A master putting sex on the list of duties for an apprentice. Those are the obvious ones. The more subtle ones are withholding affection, making demands, or doing things like constantly waking someone up in the night until they give in. Those are all bad.”

 

I hesitated over the next example, then decided not to talk about prostitution and consent. The subject and ethics were somewhat murky as-is, and my only solid experience with the topic was in Remus, where the lines less blurred and more utterly obliterated when slavery came into play. The topic was complicated and nuanced, and I knew I didn’t have the experience or knowledge to properly go into it.

 

Bless the Aquiliea guards who’d let my dad keep his job. I’d need to swing by at some point, figure out who’d made the decision, and like, rain money on them or something.

 

“Would another example be, say, demanding sexual favors to escort someone back to her home?”

 

I looked him in the eyes.

 

“Exactly. Even the implication is bad.”

 

“What are tiny transactions?” Serondes asked, reaching back round to fondle me a bit. I snuggled into his grasp.

 

“Minor things, like ‘hey, can you do the dishes?’ or ‘can you get a bath warming’ and other minor tasks like that. They’re so small, it’s not really pressure, just a tiny favor that we’d be willing to do for each other anyways. The sex isn’t really part of it, it’s just like...”

 

I struggled a moment for the words.

 

“Just like combining some minor things anyways.” I finished lamely.

 

“What’s the biggest thing you think is ok to trade for sex?” Serondes asked.

 

I gave him a kiss, wrapping my hands around him to give him a hug. He was getting it! We were establishing safe, healthy boundaries, talking about stuff, and figuring out how we stood - err, laid - in relationship to each other.

 

“Probably more sex.” I answered seriously.

 

“Deal!” He shouted out. I rolled my eyes.

 

“Like reciprocating. Like, an example would be ‘I’ll go down on you if you go down on me.’ Pretend for a moment that we’re only OK with going down on each other, but we love the reverse. We could happily arrange something where I scratch your back, and you scratch mine.”

 

“Well, I sure hope there isn’t a lot of scratching involved. Or backs.”

 

He looked down at my waist significantly. I tried to half-punch him from my poor angle.

 

“You know exactly what I mean. Leads well into the next idea. GGG.”

 

“GGG?”

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A note from Selkie

The Stabby Awards!

 

Hey all!

 

The Stabby Awards are open once again, and this year, I hope to win one! Specifically, best serialized novel.

Since Pirateaba has been told "congrats, you've won too much now you can't win any more", I believe I have a real chance at winning one this year. So I'm going to ask you all nicely - can you please nominate me (and two of your other favorite web novels) for a stabby award? Nominations are here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/rtoo7n/2021_stabby_nominations_thread_nominations_close/ , and voting occurs later on.

 

If I win a stabby, I'll post a few bonus chapters, and commission some nice artwork! Incentive for you all!

 

 

 

 

 


Discord for chatting: https://discord.gg/GStatMC

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I'm on top web fiction! Vote here! Elaine will share a mango with you if you vote!


 

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