Julia woke on the altar, covered by the Bendis’ priest’s robe. The walls enclosing the garden were tumbled heaps of stone, and he was, she assumed gone. Whoever had trapped him here had made no friend – of course, whoever had created the magical walls would be long dead – unless they too were divine.
Julia slowly sat up, the sun warming her naked skin. Her red hair hung tangled and knotted down her back. She didn’t relish combing out the snarls and grimaced noticing the leaves and dirt mixed into it. She wondered if the hot spring would still be hot without the priest of Bendis bound to the land. She stretched her arms above her head, her muscles stiff from sleeping on the stone altar.
She glanced up at the sun trying to gauge the time – it wasn’t too far past sunrise. She knew better than to conduct her dawn rites from someone else’s altar, so she carefully climbed off the altar stone, folding the priest’s robe and laying it on the stone. She recalled his cry of delight as the final wall fell, and she shivered to feel the feral power that had burst forth from him. Locking him in this chapel had been cruelty she could not fathom.
Turning her face to the sun, she took a breath and began her devotions, whispering her prayers to her gods and drawing her sigils and signs in the air. She was careful to thank Bendis and her priest for giving her safe harbor from the storm. A storm, she noticed, that seemed to have passed over the region quickly enough. Finished with her morning devotions, she returned to the doorway that led back into the chapel.
As she made her way back to the baths, she wondered about the storm – It was possible, she knew, that the priest had created the storm to direct her here – maybe having sensed her magic. But she reminded herself, he hadn’t been sure I was a witch until he led me to the baths. She wondered if it had been the goddess Bendis herself that had brought Julia to this place. That thought left her disquieted. She was more than halfway through her HexenReise – the year-long education of every witch in her coven undertook. Her magical education being supplemented by seeking out practitioners around the world – but her journey had already been plagued with otherworldly encounters, more than she remembered hearing from older witches. Before Julia had left, there had been a lot of debate in the coven about the ebbing of magic. They all felt it – every turn of the wheel saw fewer witches being born and their otherworldly allies dwindled, no longer answering any calls.
Yet, just before Julia left something had changed. Magic was waxing once more, and Julia wanted to know why. The coven sent all young witches abroad to learn, but Julia had also taken on her mission – to figure out what had changed, what had caused the resurgence of magick. She had her suspicion and finding the ancient priest and the nigh forgotten goddess in the wilderness only supported her idea.
The tunnel was rich with the scent of minerals and water, and the baths remained, steaming in the gloomy cavern. Even the candles still burned, so releasing the priest hadn’t broken his connection to the place. It was his magic that powered the place. Julia slipped into the water, sucking in her breath as the hot water reached the various abrasions she hadn’t noticed the previous night. She sat on the stone bench, wondering how many supplicants to various gods had once been in the same position. The springs and the baths built around them were old – centuries if not older. They might have existed as part of someone’s worship as far back as Neolithic times. It was later peoples who built the structure around them. The Romans likely added their stamp to the existing shrine, and then the later Christians built on top of it.
Julia shook her head trying to simply relax. This wasn’t her place, and Bendis wasn’t her goddess. This was simply one more lesson that she would take back to her coven – one more clue to explain the resurgence of ancient magic. She took a deep breath, trying to move into a meditative state.
The hot water now was soothing, the sting gone. She breathed in the steam and the scent of beeswax candles, letting her mind drift until she heard footsteps coming down the tunnel from the walled altar. The priest was returning.
Julia opened her eyes watching the tunnel. She wasn’t worried about him harming her – he owed her a boon of great value. That was the way of magic, all barter and favors. But she hadn’t helped him to gain anything. Caging him had been cruelty she couldn’t ignore. He was some part of the woods, some feral spirit made flesh – and no creature like that should ever be locked away from the wilds. She’d had no choice but to try and free him – and freeing him had been pleasurable enough. However, he did owe her for his freedom.
He entered the room, his golden eyes locked on her. And she knew she’d been so very wrong about him. Once again, her background had colored what she thought she knew. This was no horned god of the woods, no stag king she understood. The wild magic swirled around him and he was both man and wolf. His inhuman eyes locked on hers and his muzzle twisted into a grin.
“Witch,” he said, his voice a growl, “you stayed.”
Julia gazed up at him, “Do you wish me to leave your domain?”
He shook his lupine head and stepped to the edge of the bath, the steam rising around him – she wasn’t sure if it was the steam that clouded her vision or simply that his form was shifting. But he seemed both a wolf and a man – and in both forms, he stood on two feet and was gloriously naked.
As he stepped into the water, she recognized the copper scent of blood and knew that he had been at the hunt. She wondered what unlucky soul had crossed his path and felt the revenge of his teeth.
“My Lady of the hunt tells me you are not one of hers,” he said settling across from her in the water.
Julia nodded, “I am not. I am sworn to another – a goddess of witches.” She did not want to speak the name of her goddess here.
The priest nodded, “My lady said you would not lie.”
“Do I need to lie, priest?” Julia sat still in the water. “I have no quarrel with you or your Lady, nor does my goddess quarrel with you.”
The priest gave a chuffing laugh. “Be at peace, witch” he leaned forward in the water, his hands almost touching her. “We mean you no harm. You and your goddess are welcome here.”
Julia bit her lip as his hands almost touched her. She recalled lying with him the night before – only a few hours ago, but somehow this priest was a new man. He was not the same priest who had looked upon her with such delighted joy as they lay under the full moon. This priest was fierce and hungry. But Julia was not afraid. She inclined her head, “I thank you for your hospitality.” Magic also respected hospitality – she was a guest in his home, and thus was safe. She did wish she had bread and salt to share with him, just to be certain he saw her as a guest and not as prey.
Once more he gave a chuffing laugh. “I do not need your bread and salt witch,” his clawed hand moved to rest on her knee. “I have hunted and am well satiated on the blood of my prey.” His fingers caressed her flesh, “But I do crave your flesh, witch.”
She felt his wild eyes upon her and felt the frisson of fear – of being prey.
His nose twitched, and she thought that he could scent her fear. He shook his head, “Witch, I have no interest in an unwilling partner. I wish to celebrate my freedom – and wish to share that freedom with you.”
Julia gasped and tried to hold back a giggle, “I did not expect such a request, priest.” She met his eyes and they still shown with wild intensity, she thought he understood. She shifted in the pool, moving from her side to his, “And I would be honored to celebrate your freedom.”
“Good,” he growled his eyes locked to hers as she reached for him, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing herself closer to him. She could almost taste the magic that enveloped her. His hands found her waist and he shifted her to his lap and her back pressed against his chest. His claws and his stirring cock dimpling her flesh. He ran his tongue down her neck and whispered to her, “I want you, witch.”
She moaned in delight and wrapped her hands around his arms, feeling the movement of his muscles under the pelt of fur. He was man and beast and god – and Julia wanted him. She felt his tongue travel down the back of her neck. “I want you,” she panted at him.
She felt him nip at her skin, never breaking the skin, but letting her feel his teeth on her neck and shoulders. He rose from the water, lifting her, and laying her face down over the edge of the pool. She found her footing on the submerged bench and spread her thighs for him.
He growled, “You are beautiful, witch.” His hands ran down her back and his claws bit softly into her buttocks.
Julia gasped and looked back at him, once again struck by his wolf face. “Take me,” she begged him.
And the wolf priest grinned at her, clasping her hips, letting his claws dig a little deeper. But he shook his head at her. He leaned between her thighs let his tongue explore. He lapped at her thighs edging closer and closer to her waiting pussy, and Julia gasped and begged him for more.
He finally gave in, letting his tongue delve deeply, tasting her. Julia moaned in delight and shifted her hips pressing his muzzle deeper. The priest licked and lapped until Julia’s legs shook as she came.
Then he stood up and positioned himself behind her, his hands finding her hips again, he entered her. Pressing in slowly, clearly, he wanted to savor everything about this encounter. Julia lay languid from her orgasm, gave a soft, delighted moan at his entry. “Mmmm yes,” she whispered into the steam between, “yes.”
He kept his pace slow, thrusting deeply and pulling almost completely out of her. Julia arched her back, pressing back against him, not wanting to rush him – but wanting more. “More,” she finally whimpered, “more.”
The priest gave his growl, the pleading note in her voice weakening his control. He grasped her hips more tightly and began to fuck her in earnest. The water splashed from the pool, running in warm waves beneath Julia. She felt his hands on her, claws scraping her skin. She looked back at him and saw that he was once more wearing the face of a wolf.
She watched as his tongue lolled and his golden eyes remained trained on her face as he growled in pleasure. Julia found that she could not look away from this man, this beast who took her in the pool. And it is watching him that once again pushes Julia to the edge, and she feels the tingling in her loins, and she orgasms once again – perhaps it is her cries of pleasure that pushed him over the edge, but the priest presses deeply inside her one final time, and Julia could feel his cock pulse as he howled in rapture.
She let her head rest on the stone around the pool and felt him panting behind her. They stayed like that for a few minutes, each savoring the moment. The priest moved first, separating from Julia and moving her back into the water with him.
She looked and found he was once more the human-faced priest she had met when she first arrived at the church. They sat together in the pool. “Will you stay?” the priest asked her.
Julia considered the question, “Will you teach me about Bendis and your magic?”
He looked surprised by her request, but he nodded.
She smiled at him, “I am nearly at the end of my HexenReise.” She paused to see if he knew the word, “My coven, they send us all out into the world to study and learn magic.”
The priest nodded, “My people, once had a similar practice.” He looked at her, “So you wish to learn the magic of Dacia?”
“I wish to learn all the magics I can,” She frowned. “Have you noticed a change in magic?”
The priest shrugged, “Until you came, I had been dwindling – waning.” He looked at the room around them and Julia noticed that the mosaics looked brighter, newer. The aging decay of the place was receding. “I do not know if the change I feel is what you are speaking of is related.”
Julia explained to him what others in the magical world had experienced, and how magic seemed to be returning – but also changing. While it wasn’t part of what she was supposed to do on her HexenReise, she explained that part of what she wanted to find out was the cause.
He listened and looked thoughtful. “Stay, I will teach you,” he said taking her hand. “Locked here, I have not experienced any magic outside of my prison, but I have experienced what you described once, long ago.” His golden eyes glinted in the candlelight. “I will tell you my stories and teach you of our ways.”
Julia took squeezed his hand, “Thank you.” She met his eyes, “But before we get to the lessons, we should celebrate more.”