DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Posted to ff.net with the same title. This follows after Dark Horse's Conan issues 47-50. Princess Ereshka of Koth and the waif Iniri of Kiresh (the City of Thieves) met in Dark Horse’s Conan #47 The Spawn of Nergal not far from the city of Yaralet.
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Her Majesty's Handmaiden
Queen, once princess, Ereshka of Yaralet watched her favorite handmaiden, and only friend, Iniri conjure doves to amuse the children of the court.
The young woman had been a starveling on a quest, led by her visions, to find and warn Conan the Cimmerian of a great darkness in his path when she had come to Ereshka's notice. Performing simple magics to amuse Ereshka's caravan and earn her place by the fire she'd been accused of theft by a commander and was about to suffer his punishment when Ereshka herself had intervened. The princess had taken the waif under her wing and sheltered her for the night and the two had become instant friends.
Ereshka had been in need of a friend at the time. She had traveled far from Koth, her home, to the city of Yaralet to meet Prince Than, her betrothed, and cement a union of the two powerful cities. She had come with nothing but her dowry and a retinue of guards, not a friendly face among them, and she was walking straight into a den of potential enemies. She had never even met the man who was meant to become her husband. She had been truly alone. She had told Iniri, the morning they were to meet Than's escort, that the life of a queen was lonely and she would like a friend in Yaralet. Before Iniri could make an answer to the princess' veiled offer they were set upon by creatures of the vilest evil who were, she discovered later that day, servants to the sorcerer Atalis who sought to raise the dark god Nergal.
Iniri had acted swiftly, hiding the princess in a trunk of silks which had saved Ereshka's life, and in so doing she had placed her own life in danger.
The horrific decaying horde had been sent to slaughter her escort and take Ereshka captive, for purposes Ereshka preferred not to think on. They mistook Iniri for the princess they sought, for the girl was wearing a rich cape that had been a gift from Ereshka, and captured her instead.
Ereshka kept her life, but not without some suffering. She woke, injured, nearly drowning in the blood of her men. She had crawled through the gore to the clean waters of a reed banked stream and there she had lain in a faint until Conan had lifted her free.
Initially the barbarian had not wanted to involve himself in this matter, preferring to write it off as a waste of his time. But Ereshka had told him of Iniri, of how she had come so far to warn him to repay him the kindness he'd once done her, and she had asked whether that bravery from one so young and frail meant nothing to him. Against his better judgment Conan agreed to go after the horde, rescue Iniri, and stop whatever evil was being unleashed upon the world (though he agreed to this wearing a grimace of distaste).
When all was done Prince Than, the sorcerer Atalis, and the dark god Nergal had been slaughtered that day. Than died a betrayer of his people, having sought power in the dark arts Atalis offered for a hefty price. Ereshka would not mourn him. Conan had saved Ereshka, Iniri, and Iniri's friend blind Jerim many times over that day. He had saved the world by stopping Nergal. And though Ereshka offered him riches and a place in her court, he refused and went on his way.
Ereshka felt no pain at the parting, though she knew young Iniri was sad to see the barbarian go. Even so the girl followed Ereshka willingly becoming a true friend and, in time, much more.
Ereshka had named Iniri her sole handmaiden upon their arrival in Koth, a move not unprecedented and one that was lauded as soon as she told the tale of the events in Yaralet. Ereshka's brothers, hearing of Than's deceptions and the horrors they had wrought, took advantage of Yaralet's uncertain state to install Ereshka upon the throne as Queen of Yaralet. The new queen had returned to Yaralet richer than the first time, for now she had Iniri by her side and blind Jerim to guide her.
And so here she sat years later, a happy queen, watching her favored friend and young lover delight the children of her court and entertain many of the nobles as well with flashy magics and conjured animals.
Queen Ereshka, knowing none were paying her any attention, allowed her eyes to wander over Iniri's form. The hair that had once been shorn nearly to the skull flowed silkily past slender shoulders, pieces tied into small braids studded with tiny blossoms. Her face, which had once worn a look of fear and hard living, was radiant with joy and laughter as her life had been made a pleasure to live. Her smile dazzled Ereshka even now, a sensuous curving of lips she knew were soft and warm splitting to reveal strong white teeth aligned in perfect rows. Where once the young woman had been only skin and bones she now sported healthy muscles and tantalizing curves; curves that only Ereshka had ever explored in passion and tender moments. Ereshka felt her body warm with desire and she fought to keep that lust from reaching her eyes.
She knew she'd failed when Iniri caught her eyes and grinned, ending her impromptu show with a flourish and a bow. Their entertainment gone the children and courtiers departed the gardens to seek business or pleasure elsewhere leaving only their queen and her handmaiden behind.
"I see a fire burning in my lady's eyes," Iniri whispered as she drew closer to her queen.
Ereshka felt her heartbeat quicken, "One you fan at every opportunity."
"I wish only to keep my queen happy," Iniri replied as she knelt before Ereshka, claiming one of the queen's hands and placing a tender kiss to its back.
Ereshka's eyelashes fluttered at the touch of those lips and she drew a shaky breath, "You do that quite well, I assure you."
Iniri laid a series of soft kisses, ones the barely touched skin, upon the hand in her grasp trailing them up to the inside of Ereshka's wrist. "I could do even better were we to seek your chambers, my queen," she said suggestively.
It was too much for Ereshka to bear. She stood, pulling Iniri up with her. She stared down into the younger woman's eyes and found a passion rivaling her own staring back. She leaned close, wishing she dared kiss her impertinent handmaiden in public, and whispered into the shell of an ear "Come, then. And prove it."
Iniri grinned as Ereshka swept gracefully from the gardens, "As my lady commands." She followed.
Hours later they lay spent and sated, hands trailing lazily flesh they knew by heart.
Iniri faced her queen, twining their fingers together and pulling them to her lips seeking the tender contact.
"Do you ever think of him?" Ereshka whispered into the peace.
Iniri's brow furrowed, "Of who, my queen?"
"Iniri," Ereshka said in gentle reprimand.
Lifting her eyes to meet her queen's Iniri asked again, "Think of who, Ereshka?"
They were in private; the one place the two of them could be informal and relaxed. Ereshka had long ago asked that Iniri call her by her name, not her title, when they were alone. It was sometimes difficult for Iniri to switch from the formality of court to the intimacy of the bedchamber, some vestiges of her youth still telling her she should never look nobility in the eyes or dare to use their given names. Still, she made the effort to please her love and she could see the happiness the simple use of her name brought Ereshka.
"What?" The question was startling enough that Iniri blinked and pulled back to get a clearer look at Ereshka's expression. She saw only honest curiosity.
The queen pressed on, "Do you ever think of Conan when we lay together like this?"
"Why do you ask, Ereshka?"
"I was thinking of him earlier today, and wondered if you did as well," Ereshka's eyes tracked away from Iniri to gaze at some point in the distant sky just beyond their walls.
"Ereshka," Iniri said moving to rub her hand from Ereshka's hip to ribs and back again, drawing the queen's attention back to her, "I think of Conan often, it's true. I thank him from the depths of my heart for leading me to you. But why would I ever think of him in bed when I have you to occupy my thoughts as you do my sight, my hands, and my heart?"
Ereshka smiled, charmed by Iniri's earnest sentiment. "You've become quite eloquent over the years," she remarked.
Iniri smiled back, rising above Ereshka to lean over her. "I've had an excellent teacher," she said. Her hand trailed over Ereshka's hip and slid between the queen's legs drawing a gasp, she purred the continuation of her reply, "In many things."
Ereshka's hips rolled into the touch. "Well then, it's high time you show me what you've learned," the queen challenged.
"With pleasure," Iniri said just before taking Ereshka's mouth in a demanding lustful kiss.
It would be many hours before the sounds of great pleasure stopped ringing from the queen's chambers.
Blind Jerim would smile and ring for servants to make sure trays of food were placed discreetly in the queen's chambers, ever attentive to the needs of his two closest friends. He owed both women much in this life, and he would repay their friendship and love with small kindnesses.
If there had been any members of the courts of Yaralet who had not known the queen and her handmaiden were a great deal more involved than that, they surely knew it now. They rejoiced, for a happy queen was a benevolent queen, and everyone loved a happy ruler.
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