The next morning, Ada sulked down the stairs, a bit later than usual. She had hardly slept. Though, she had regained some small margin of confidence when she had discovered a loose stone in the tower wall and hidden her most important books there.
The witch was not in her usual place by the fire. She stood smirking at the bottom of the stairs, hands on her hips. “Well?”
“Yes?” Ada required no theater to sound weary.
“Aren’t you going to get started on dinner, or are you going to laze about all day?”
Ada slunk the rest of the way down the stairs and lifted a potato from the basket by the stove.
The witch tsked. “No no. Go fetch some more rabbits.”
‘Fetch’ some more rabbits, as if they were just at some market, waiting for them. As if Ada hadn’t taught herself, only from a book, how to trap and kill and clean and cook them.
“I thought that wasn’t ladylike?” Ada whispered, but there was no fight in her voice.
“It’s what a lady like you is going to do today,” the witch snipped.
Ada set down the potato, fetched a spindle of twine from its place on the mantle, and stepped outside.
It was a fine day in early summer. Once she was outside and setting to work, she could not remain upset for long. She determined that she would catch a few extra rabbits and try to salt-cure the meat. The thrill of planning her escape brought her quickly back to her usual disposition.
After she finished setting the last snare at the edge of a copse of trees, she took a moment to survey the field behind her and decide what she might do until it was time to check the traps.
The gurgle of the stream caught her ear and she started down towards the place where she usually bathed.
She realized with a laugh that if her father had seen her then, he would have thought she was some kind of urchin. Her calves were dusty where the dirt of the field had stuck to her sweat and there was still dried blood on her knees.
Ada stripped off her frock even before she had reached the stream, grateful once again that the surrounding area was so utterly empty. The sun gazed down on her lovingly and the gentle breeze caressed her.
She almost didn’t see the doe that had stooped to drink at the edge of the stream. It froze and swiveled its ears at her, then bounded off into the swaying grasses. There were a few bows tucked away in the tower’s modest armory. She’d have to start practicing.
That was for later, though. For now, she’d take a bath.
The water of the stream was sweetly cool. It came only up to her calves, so she lay flat on the rounded pebbles of the stream bed and submerged herself.
The dirt and her anxieties washed away. It took a bit more effort to get the blood off her knees, but soon that too was gone.
Her mind drifted to an imagined future.
She was a clever hunter and had lived a long, lone while in the forest.
He was riding through the forest on a decorated horse, his tailcoats navy velvet with gold trim, his wavy hair flowing down over his shoulders, and his face handsome and carefree. He was her mark, her prey.
She stalked him through the forest, preparing. She was swift, silent. She waited until he paused to let his horse drink at a stream, and that was when she struck.
Water splashed, the horse whinnied and spooked, there was a gasping tussle, and then he kneeled on the ground in front of her, her knife at his throat.
But then she saw the lovely curve of his collarbone, his brilliant blue eyes pleading up at her and the true innocence in his face. She realized that he was not guilty of the crimes that had put the price on his head.
Ada’s mind skipped through the next bits, a few plot advancements and shifts in relationship, rebalances in the power dynamic, until via some literary contrivance she and he were back at the same stream again.
She shoved him down into the soft peat and pounced.
His erection rose to meet her.
She fucked him against the bank as the stream gurgled its support. His hair flowed out around him and his blue eyes pleaded up at her for release.
But she would not give it to him. Not until she’d had her fill. Grinding against him, she worked herself to orgasm once, twice, three times. His desperate arousal grew more and more frantic each time.
Finally, she shifted her hips so that her movements would stimulate him in the way that he so desperately desired. His face melted into a vision of sheer angelic bliss as he finally came, blessing her with all his seed, and she climaxed again.
As Ada lay in the stream she did indeed finish her fourth climax, her panting and gasping mingling with the babbling water. More time had passed than she realized and the sun was now dipping low in the sky. She walked quickly through the field and found that three out of her five traps had caught small rabbits. She called upon her imaginary hunter for resolve and wrung their necks, then headed back to the tower.
Her heart glowed just as brightly as the setting sun, and she only barely remembered to put on a frown as she entered the tower.
She must have been convincing enough, because the witch just looked at her smugly as Ada set about cleaning the rabbits and preparing the night’s meal.
They ate in silence and only after Ada had washed the dishes and returned to the fireside to sew did the witch finally say, “Ada, we need to have a talk.” She leaned back in her chair across from Ada and looked down her long nose.
“What about?” Ada steeled herself. She just needed to acquiesce and barter for time.
“Your… perverse activities.”
“You mean my masturbating?” The quip was out of her mouth before she could think better of it. So much for her resolve. Ada was truly terrible at pretending to be in a bad mood.
“You can’t — ack — ugh! See, this cavalier attitude is completely unacceptable!”
“I still don’t understand why.”
“You aren’t supposed to understand why.”
“Well… why not?” It was a genuine question. It always had been.
The witch’s smirk faded and she leaned forward slightly, sighing and pressing her fingertips to her temples. “Look. You don’t get to understand why. You just need to do what you’re told. And you need to stop those activities. I know what you did today.”
Had the witch spied on Ada from the top of the tower? Scandalous. “You don’t have to watch if you—”
“I knew it! You little… little… cretin!” The witch’s volume escalated, her nostrils flaring. “And outside! How shameful!”
“I thought you said you knew—”
“I suspected and you’ve just confirmed it. And here I thought you were turning a corner. Hah! Of course I should have known that you’d be incorrigible!”
The witch turned into a flurry of skirts and anger as she fumed over to a shelf and returned with a book. Ada was concerned that she would see another of her treasures turned to ash, but she didn’t recognize the cover. It was made of leather and branded with arcane symbols.
The witch shook the book at Ada. “I’m going to teach you a lesson. You seem to be lacking for… self control. But this is why you get a witch to guard your tower, hm? Because witches know a trick or two, far more clever than fetching rabbits!”
Ada was unsure of how to respond. Anything she said would surely just goad the witch further. Perhaps if Ada just let her finish her rant, she’d make a few threats and then send Ada away.
“This, oh this will teach you your lesson!” the witch continued, flipping through her book and pressing it open on the table, snatching a burning candle from the table and a fistful of herbs from her pocket.
Ada had seen something similar before. She’d been doused with healing water in rings of ten candles on more than one occasion, back when the queen had been convinced that Ada’s penchant for pleasure was due to a demonic possession.
A flicker of snark danced on her tongue, a challenge like ‘so are you going to grind a poultice at me?’, but this time Ada did not let it escape.
The witch looked purposeful and confident as she poured candle wax onto the table in a pentagram.
The light flickered oddly in the hollows of her face and she turned back to Ada with wild eyes. Had she finally smoked too many herbs? “I am going to curse you so that at the peak of your pleasure you turn into a hideous beast! You’ll have to choose! Behave or lose everything! Nobody will tend a hideous beast, no one will defer, no one will respect you or woo you with favors.”
“You really seem to be speaking from personal experience here.” Shit. She’d meant it in an empathetic, ‘who hurt you’ kind of way, but as soon as it was out of her mouth she knew exactly how it sounded.
The witch shrieked with a fury beyond words. She started chanting, spittle flicking from her mouth. She withdrew several hempen pouches from her pocket and threw them in the fire. As the contents burned, the flames licked up purple and green.
The spell was not a short one. Rather than sit and watch the witch chant for minutes on end, Ada stood from her chair. “I’m… going to bed.”
And honestly, the witch’s episode was unsettling. Was she really so delusional to think she could work the old magic? What in the world was she trying to call down on Ada?
The witch continued her coarse chanting, face twisted with satisfaction.
Ada started up the stairs. Before she left earshot, the witch had finished chanting.
“Remember!” she screamed. “A HIDEOUS BEAST!”
The racing of her heart had started as wariness. But as she closed the door of her room and sank into her bed, once again surrounded by her books, it morphed into the heat of arousal.
Could the witch have accomplished some magic after all?
Just the thought that the witch’s spell could have backfired in such a way was a bellows on the growing flame. She was sure then that the arousal had been in her imagination all along.
But, it was a fun idea. The witch picking the wrong spell, it simply making Ada thirstier instead of doing anything at all about the ‘problem’… Ada liked that idea so much that she didn’t even bother to undress before she pulled up her frock and started touching herself.
She was already plenty wet from her extended activities by the stream, and her fingers against her felt so good. Though she was tired from the day and wanted to sleep, she’d hardly be able to with her heart pounding like this. Rubbing another one out seemed like a fine lullaby.
And she couldn’t deny, she had a sort of morbid curiosity. She liked the idea of so quickly opening her door and declaring, ‘your spell didn’t work at all!’. Then, as the witch raged, perhaps Ada would just pick her up, deposit her outside and bar the door. Ada was surprised she hadn’t thought of it sooner. She was not yet accustomed to her newfound strength.
Her boldness turned to unfettered lust as Ada worked herself gleefully towards climax.