Part 1: The Premise, The Alchemist's Illusions

Chapter 6: Damp

Linza had awoken to realize that the terms of her employment were in total disarray. More than a few pages had become wrinkled and smudged by sweat and other secretions. One was torn where it had been caught under an elbow and most were at least slightly crumpled.

Linza had carefully reassembled the sheaf. The most crucial piece, the piece that she was to sign, was nowhere to be found.

After much frantic searching, they had realized that it was plastered to Wyn’s ass and more than a little bit smudged.

Finally, the sheaf was whole again, but looked as blissily bedraggled as Linza and Wyn themselves felt. As Linza washed, Wyn offered that she borrow one of Wyn’s dresses so that she didn’t have to wear the same outfit twice.

Linza weighed the relative embarrassment of showing up in the same clothes as yesterday versus Wyn’s flamboyant fashion sense. The woman did not own a single article of clothing with anything less than four colors. Linza’s coworkers barely noticed her and she liked it that way, so she opted to re-dress in her clothes from the previous day and then she hurried to catch the trolley to work.

She was grateful, for the first time, that her day job was so monotonous.

As she weighed, she pondered. As she scrubbed, she fantasized.

She was glad that nobody came to ask her to proof an equation, because she would have struggled with even the most simple algebra. Her mind was as hazy as if she’d spent the whole day smoking herb.

By lunch, her sex was throbbing insistently.

By the time her work day ended, her panties were soaked through.

She hoped to finally sign her terms of employment and drop them off at the pleasure house on her way home. However, she found that the sheaf had not fared well in her bag all day. Several of the pages were stuck together with dampness and the crucial signature page was still too wet to take fresh ink.

Linza sighed, packing her bag back up. She’d have to head home after all, and drop them off the following night.

As she stepped aboard the trolley, she wondered if any of the other passengers caught the conspicuous scent of sweat from her bag.

The main way around the city was by trolley, and the cobblestone streets were criss-crossed with tracks. A decade prior there had been a massive project — largely sponsored by JSMI — to convert the trolleys from horse-drawn to electric. There was now a network of cables running over the trolley lines, the electricity supplied by massive steam engines and generators in the warehouse district.

In the richer parts of town there were still plenty of carriages. Here there were only a couple. Most of the horses out and about were community watch. One of Linza’s favorite games as she rode the trolley home was to try and spot all of them. They were old and steady folks who rode old and steady horses, gently touring the neighborhood streets from their vantage points. They were always happy to offer directions or advice to residents and visitors alike, and they helped keep mischief at a minimum by dutifully reporting back to children’s parents if they’d been misbehaving.

As the trolley rattled on, there were fewer and fewer carriages and the buildings cramped in tighter, pressing themselves into smaller and smaller spaces. Finally, the trolley trundled up to her stop.

Linza waved at a little grey woman on her little grey horse, Ezra and Carrots respectively, but she ducked inside before Ezra could come over to chat. Linza was fond of her, especially since Linza had no other family nearby, but she wasn’t quite in the mood for a chat.

Her apartment was small but cozy, up on the sixth floor of a building with no mechanical lift. As convenient as a lift would have been, it would have meant that she’d pay ten percent more in rent. So, as it were, she tried to appreciate the exercise.

There were really only two rooms in the apartment. There was her bedroom and then the everything else room. The washroom was as small as it could possibly be, but at least she had her own. She’d had to share a communal washroom with other students all four years as JSMI. Being able to go barefoot in the shower and not having to carry her soap back and forth every day were small luxuries that she did not take for granted.

In the main room, there was a tiny stove, sink, and counter in one corner. Next to that was her desk which doubled as her dining table, and in the opposite corner was a hand-me-down wing back chair from Wyn and a large bookcase that was full and overflowing. On the wall next to it was a row of tiny shelves which hosted a menagerie of little stone figurines. There were snakes and horses and dragons and boats and landscapes and more, in veined marble and mottled granite, all polished to a shine. 

Some of the little stone figures looked as if they’d been whittled from wood — because they had been. Alchemy was the domain of transmutations of all kinds. With just time and focus, Linza could transmute wood, stone, iron, copper, or silver temporarily to another of those materials. One of her favorite hobbies was to get chunks of scrap marble and granite from the stone cutters that prepared it for use in establishments like JSMI, turn them into wood, and then make little figurines.

The level of quality of the figurines on the shelf was quite broad. She’d kept some of her earlier ones which were quite sloppy, partly because they would make poor gifts and partly to remind her how far she’d come.

If she spent an evening at home, usually she’d curl up in the wingback chair and read a book or work on a figurine. 

This night, she started by drawing her laundry line across from its reel by the stove over to the wall with the window. She carefully peeled apart the pages and clipped them up to dry.

Then, she sat at her desk.

Linza dug a fresh notebook out of the bottom of her desk drawer, pressed it open in front of her, and touched her quill to the blank page.

She wrote and wrote and wrote of everything she had imagined that day. When she finally put the quill down, caving to the cramp in her hand and not any end to her flow of ideas, the chair underneath her was notably damp.

Linza checked the clock. It was several hours past midnight! She should have already been long asleep. She hadn’t eaten dinner!

But, there was only one desire in her mind.

She pulled her skirt up and pressed her hand up under the damp cloth of her panties and into the heat of her folds.

It felt so good. Her inner labia were so soft, so swollen. She had really outdone herself this time.

A full day’s worth of arousal quivered underneath her fingers.

She worked herself in circles, collapsing against the desk with a gasp and propping her head with her hand.

Even her mouth watered, though at nothing in particular.

She was tempted to summon a phantasm for herself, but she was unsure of how long it would last. She hadn’t quite gotten a full night’s sleep the day prior, so her capacity for the larger magics may have been exhausted anyway.

Had Linza been anything less than a panting, lust-drunk puddle, she could have easily determined her remaining magical capacity.

As it was, she figured it was best to stick with a cantrip. They were small magic, manipulations of latent energy. They required much more practice to learn than other incantations, but they did not require any of the caster’s own energies as catalyst.

Linza knew exactly what she wanted. Her trembling hand worked through the signs that were as second-nature as writing and the crystal at her throat vibrated again.

The sound of Wyn’s orgasmic scream, shaped from Linza’s memory, filled the little room. It repeated, over and over and over again, interspersed with panting moans. As long as Linza could raise a hand every minute or so to trace the gestures again, the sound would never end.

This was one of the reasons that Linza had paid such fierce attention to their climax together. This memory was fresh and sharp and real.

Linza’s body trembled like a string on a lute between her elbow pressed against the table and the seat in the chair.

And then, in ecstatic crescendo, she sang.

This climax was, somehow, even more incredible than her one the previous night. Slow. Languid. Lingering. Her muscles squeezed, like gentle hands rhythmically wringing out every last drop of pleasure. She had soaked herself in arousal the whole day and there was very, very much to release.

Finally, Linza’s head sank flat on the desk, the wood warm against her cheek.

Her hand had stilled, but was pressed against her mound to capture those last lingering whispers of pleasure. She loved the way her skin felt against her skin in the afterglow.

She fell asleep there, against the desk, for a few minutes. Then she stirred and heaved herself with a sigh into her bed, not even bothering to undress.

Gods, that was the best fuck she’d had in ages.

Nobody knew Linza quite like she knew herself. It was one of the reasons that she and Wyn were friends and not lovers. In one of Wyn’s most profound generosities, it was her cajoling that had finally prompted Linza to learn how to treat herself. And it was Linza learning how to treat herself, and finding that she generally preferred to be alone in her pleasure, that had ended the ‘relationship’ part of their relationship.

That she and Wyn could ‘see’ each other, as the madame had described, was why they were still dear friends.

And Linza was quite content with that.

That wasn’t to say that she wasn’t a romantic. Sure, she fantasized about rose petals and passionate sex, whispered conversations and sweet nothings.

But the great part about fantasizing was that it didn’t come with any of the messiness of real-life romance.

To Linza, it just didn’t seem worth all the fuss.

Part 1: The Premise, The Alchemist's Illusions

Chapter 5: Sleepover

Wyn’s bedroom was nearly as large as Linza’s whole apartment. In the center was a beautifully carved four-poster bed with a velvet canopy.  The walls were hung with pictorial tapestries that depicted farmers, kings and queens, a baker’s shop and — Wyn’s addition — a woman in the nude.

Linza and Wyn sat next to each other on Wyn’s bed. They were both wearing nightgowns, Linza’s borrowed from Wyn’s closet. Linza had stopped by for dinner and soon realized that there would be no way that Wyn was going to let her leave that night.

The papers were all strewn out in front of them, Wyn poring over them. Wyn herself had studied evocation. She could make her hands burn with fire, could summon sparkling lights, could create ice out of thin air. She could also be drafted during a time of war, which was the major downside of becoming an evoker. When pressed on how she felt about military service, Wyn would just giggle and say ‘I’d like to see them try and catch me’. To Linza, it was a refreshing departure from her mother’s dutiful worship of the royal navy.

Evocation was also an attractive School to casters who were more emotional than studious, more physical than academic, and so it had been a good fit for Wyn.

Linza had hardly ever seen her read a book (unless it was romance, of course) and she had certainly never seen Wyn study anything so intently as she studied the terms of employment strewn across the bed.

Wyn set down the final page, having finished her third reading. “So little of this is about sex!”

“She said something like, ‘sex is one constellation among galaxies’.”

Wyn’s eyes snapped up. “Oh. My. Gods.” She pulled her hair and threw herself back on the bed, sending a few of the sheets fluttering. “She sounds so freaking dreamy!”

“She was! She was like… like a professor almost.”

“A hot professor,” Wyn said.


“Ugh. I heard she doesn’t see clients—”

“—esteemed guests—”

“—yeah yeah, whatever. I heard she doesn’t see guests anymore because she’s so busy training the staff. You have to try and get with her! I need details!”

“I’m going to be at the very bottom of the pecking order, there’s no way. Not for ages.”

“Ugh, but wouldn’t that make it, like… a little bit forbidden? Like hot professors at JSMI. Like, you’re not supposed to, but… doesn’t that make it more exciting?”

Linza snorted. “For you, maybe. It just makes me feel bad!”

“Really? Just imagine it… all this line of other staff before you, but she’s just as captivated by you as you are by her… you’re not supposed to, you know you’ll have to wait ages, but you flirt anyway… and flirt, and flirt… You try to woo her, but she declines… just as she’s about to crack, you dutifully agree to follow the rules, and then she’s trying to woo you…”

Wyn’s eyes lost focus, her nipples perked under the thin silk of her nightgown, and she ran her legs against each other luxuriantly. Her hair had come to rest across the pillow. She heaved a sigh, her breasts bouncing under the silk. “Do you want to fool around or should I go take a bath?”

Linza bounced up and straddled Wyn, only the thin silk of Wyn’s nightgown between her vulva and Wyn’s skin. “I would really like to fool around.”

“Fuck yes.” Wyn reached up and pulled Linza down on top of her, their lips meeting.

Linza particularly liked the comparison of sex as a constellation amongst galaxies. Hers and Wyn’s constellations shared this star. They had learned after some trial and error that they made better friends than lovers.

Neither was made jealous by the other’s flings. Each supported the other in whatever they might pursue. Mostly they met for tea and chatted.

And every so often when the stars aligned and they both happened to be feeling it on the same night, they fooled around.

Linza rocked her hips against Wyn. The silk was smooth against her labia, the other woman’s mound providing pressure. Wyn’s lips were soft and welcoming, her touch was fervent and greedy.

Their kiss ended as Linza rested her cheek on Wyn’s breasts, grinding even more fervently. Her moisture was soaking through the thin silk between them.

“F-fuck, you’re wet.” Wyn arched her back into Linza. “You poor thing, did the madame leave you all hot and bothered?”


“Hmmm let me see!” Wyn pushed up onto her elbows.

Linza reluctantly tipped herself off of the other woman, falling back to the bed next to her. The skirt of her nightgown remained at her waist, leaving nothing between her vulva and Wyn’s appraising eyes.

Wyn ran her fingers up the insides of Linza’s thighs and Linza shivered.

“My my, you are quite the mess,” Wyn chided.

She descended on Linza with her tongue and Linza screamed with delight.

It was overwhelming. It felt so good. Though, Linza wavered a bit in one of the uncertainties that meant that she and Wyn weren’t the best of lovers. Linza was the sort of woman that needed to sink deep into the fantasies of her own mind in order to climax.

Wyn preferred a more urgent and present sort of love-making and she grew quickly bored without variety or banter.

If Linza obliged with banter, she could extend the length of Wyn’s attentions, but she would delay her own climax. Some times, that was alright with her.

Other times, like this time, when she was fit to burst after days of building anticipation, she craved that release.

But then, she realized something. It brought her out of her arousal just a bit, but it was worth it. She propped herself up on her elbows. “Wyn?”

“Mhm?” Wyn looked up at her, face still buried in her vulva.

“I-I was thinking—”

Wyn started to roll her eyes. Wyn was always teasing Linza for thinking too much, especially during sex.

“—I could summon a phantasm?”

Wyn’s eyes widened and she perked up. “Can you summon an octopus mermaid to fuck me right now?”

Linza was surprised and impressed by how instantly Wyn knew what she wanted. It was one of Linza’s favorite things about the brazen woman.

Linza nodded. “Can do!”

Wyn’s breathing quickened. “Both holes, wrap my legs and hips, hard. Fuck me into your pussy.”

At Wyn’s lustful command, Linza almost forgot how to think, let alone recite the spell. Maybe Wyn had more of an imagination than Linza had given her credit for. She was all too happy to oblige.

Linza began the spell. It required all three components. 

Verbal, a spoken incantation.

Somatic, a measured and precise movement of the hand.

Material, the focus crystal that hung on a golden chain around her neck.

The crystal vibrated as she spoke the arcane verse and sculpted the nascent magic into shape.

As was ever true of artists and illusionists, they became deeply acquainted with their inner and unconscious imaginations in a way that few others ever did.

The resulting octopus mermaid looked much like Wyn herself, golden skin melting into ochre tentacles. Brown hair spilled in waves over her shoulders. Her face was aglow with mischief, her smirk decorated with cute little fangs.

To Linza, the image was translucent. To Wyn, who welcomed it, it would be totally opaque. To anyone else, it would be invisible. 

Wyn glanced over her shoulder and her face sparked with delight for one brief moment.

Then her expression melted into ecstasy as the tentacles wrapped firmly around her and into her.

Wyn moaned in a way that Linza had not heard before, and in a way that set Linza’s own arousal blazing again.

“I c-can feel it!” Wyn gasped. “Gods, I can feel it! It’s inside of me, fuck, Linza, it feels so good!”

Linza did not give the spell its next instruction explicitly. Rather, it responded to the fantasy that it had been summoned from, the unconscious thoughts from which it was drawing its power and form. Her’s and Wyn’s imaginations, together.

A limit of the illusion was that it worked directly on the mind and could not have a direct physical effect. But, expectations were powerful. As the illusory sensation thrust into Wyn, she moved instinctively with it, pressing into Linza’s vulva with the same rhythm.

The pleasure and heat built nearly immediately.

Linza’s breath heaved, her own breasts bouncing on her chest.

The mermaid’s face was glowing with abject pleasure, as if each of her tentacles was as erotically sensitive as a cock. She rubbed her own nipples with the ridged underside of one of her tentacles. 

As soon as the mermaid’s breath started deepening into deep gasps, Linza knew what was next.

“Fuuuck,” the mermaid said, in a voice that was smoky and sweet and a bit like the madame’s. “I’m c… I’m c… I’m cumming!”

Thick white foam that smelled like the ocean sprayed from the tips of each of her tentacles, including those that continued to vigorously fuck Wyn.

Wyn’s scream of climax joined the mermaid’s, and Linza’s was close behind.

It was the kind of orgasm that hit her like a rogue wave. Her conscious mind was swept underwater by, utterly overwhelmed for a moment before bobbing back to the surface. She rode out the waves of pleasure, recording every detail into memory.

Wyn’s screams of pleasure vibrated through her sex. The mermaid kept fucking her with a squelching sound and the smell of the ocean. The mermaid’s fluids were everywhere, soaking both of them.

Gradually, the waves turned to ripples and then the ripples to stillness.

Wyn now floated on the afterglow, cheek on Linza’s thigh and arms around her hips as if Linza were a life preserver.

The mermaid gently disentangled herself from Wyn, who gasped at the renewed pleasure of the receding tentacles. The mermaid just giggled and then turned and dived off the side of the bed. 

The sound of a splash was the last of the illusion as Linza released the spell.

Linza melted completely and became one with the silky cushions and smooth sheets of Wyn’s bed. Everything felt so soft, so cozy, so nice.

Wyn heaved her head up from Linza’s thigh. “Fuck, Linz… that was… holy shit. Your imagination is hot. Charge me next time.”

Part 1: The Premise, The Alchemist's Illusions

Chapter 4: The Interview

The madame was nothing like Linza had expected.

Linza knew a few things, going into that interview. She knew that the madame ran the estate and that she was one of the top five richest merchants in all the kingdom. 

She also had known that the madame was half-orc, but knowing and experiencing were quite different things.

They met on a private veranda that overlooked the ocean. Vines crawled up into the lattice over them, ripe grapes hanging from their branches.

The sun was warm and the ocean breeze brought a slight chill and the smell of seaweed.

The madame was a full head taller than Linza. Her skin was the cool, pale green of lichen. Her lips were full and her lower canines protruded from them. A navy silk dress clung to her every plump curve. Her black hair showed a blue sheen in the sunlight and was braided up at the crown of her head in an elaborate knot, soft strands falling down to frame her face.

As she moved to stand and shake Linza’s hand, firm muscles rippled under the softness of her skin.

Linza could not place her age. She knew that the woman must have been in her sixties, but she seemed full of youth and wisdom all at once.

A single word filled Linza’s mind as she regarded the madame. 


Like the afternoon sun above them, the madame emitted a calm, silent, powerful energy.

She took Linza’s hand and lead her down to a little wooden table on the veranda. Linza hand looked as a child’s in the madame’s.

She was sure she should be saying something, but she didn’t know what to say.

They sat, and the madame searched her face with warm, brown eyes. “You have a bit of the sight, don’t you?” Her voice was warm and husky, like the crackling of a fireplace.

“W-which sight?” There were several purported types of special sight in magical study, and Linza did not want to over-promise.

“Might you tell me whatever you were just thinking? And then I might tell you.”

Linza was deeply wary of magical charms.  The School of Enchantment operated under strict rules, but there were indiscretions. Every student was trained to recognize the signs.

There were none of those signs. The way her heart seemed to float on the madame’s fingertips had nothing to do with the kind of magic that Linza had learned in school.

She was compelled, by no force other than the madame’s glowing halo of kindness, to confess. “I was thinking you were as the sun. Radiant.”

The madame smiled more deeply and her eyes crinkled into sparks of joy. “I daresay you do have the sight, and the tongue of a poet to boot!”

Linza blushed. Yet again, curiosity overcame uncertainty. “What sight are you referring to?”

“I’d say it’s ‘mundane’, but only to contrast the formal magics, and not because it isn’t special. I’ve called it that for a while now. As best as I can describe it — though now I’m eager to see if you might have better words for it — it is that singular feeling when you see somebody else, and you feel that they see you right back.”

“Yes! I know exactly what you mean. My best friend and I are that way. And a couple of professors I’ve known.”

The madame nodded, looking at once giddy and elegant. “You will find that the house is home to lots of ‘seers’. It’s particularly helpful in our line of work.”

“I can imagine!”

“I am quite sure that you can,” the madame said. “To be clear, I’m playing on words a bit. I am both sure that you immediately, implicitly understood how that sight helps our work. I am also sure that you have the kind of imagination that will be a good fit for the role that you applied for.”

“Oh!” Linza was glad that she had explained. “Th-Thank you! I’m honored to be considered!”

“I must confess,” the madame continued, “That I had you here under a bit of a ruse. This is not an interview.”

Linza’s heart dropped. Had the compliment just been a way to let her down easy?

“This is a job offer,” the madame continued.

“Oh! I—” Linza was about to eagerly accept.

The madame held up a finger for her to wait, and Linza’s words dissolved.

“You cannot accept until you have heard all the terms,” the madame said. “Rule number two, ‘nothing taken’. The true purpose of this lunch is for me to explain it all to you. Rule number one, ‘everything given’.”

“Are there any other rules?”

The madame’s grin widened. “Yes, excellent question! I can tell already that we’ll have a great talk. There is only one other rule. Rule number three, ‘have fun’.”

Part 1: The Premise, The Alchemist's Illusions

Chapter 3: The Inquiry

Linza had first learned about the estate from her best friend, Wyn. 

When Wyn was flirting with a boy, as she often did, she liked to introduce herself as ‘Wyn, short for Olewynn, sounds like all-the-way-in, please’. She liked to make them blush.

Wyn was brazen in every sense. Bold, loud, shameless. Skin golden brown like brass. Jubilant laugh like a herald’s trumpet.

They had graduated together. Wyn’s father was a professor of invocation and so she had received a scholarship and did not share Linza’s financial woes. In fact, quite the opposite. She lived in a fashionable part of town in her own sizeable apartment, which she had inherited from her great aunt. Wyn had done little to refurnish the place and had just added her own colorful accents, so the home was a charming mix of traditional and avant garde — a fair representation of Wyn herself.

Though Wyn was well off, that was not to say she wasn’t generous. When Linza’s purse was getting light, she could always count on Wyn for a hearty meal. 

She shared the discoveries of her elbow-rubbing with Wyn over afternoon tea. The tea was an exotic spiced variety that Linza hadn’t heard of before, and it went particularly well with Wyn’s latest batch of shortbread. Wyn was an average cook but a brilliant baker, and Linza would have had plenty of reason to drop by for tea even if she hadn’t had an update for Wyn.

“I think you need a night job,” Wyn said around a mouthful of shortbread.

“A what?”

“A night job. You have a day job, so you need a night job, too.”

Linza quirked an eyebrow. Wyn had been guaranteed a job at her cousin’s foundry basically since the moment she enrolled in the School of Evocation. She wasn’t sure Wyn was in the best position to casually advise that Linza get a second job. “Like what?”

“Like tending bar or minding children.”

“Oh!” Linza chuckled. “For some reason, I thought you were going to say I should be a sex worker or something.”

Wyn’s hands slammed down on the table and spit crumbs of shortbread. “Wait, yes! That is a great idea!”

“It is? No it isn’t. What?” Linza had been audience and accomplice to some of Wyn’s bolder ideas over the years, but this definitely was towards the top. Sex work was legal and quite respectable in the kingdom. That was largely thanks to Queen Lillia the First, who had actually been a sex worker before she’d married King Albert the Third. Albert was a bit bumbling and the greatest gift he’d ever given to the people was generally putting Queen Lillia in charge of things. She had been enterprising and professional and had brought a variety of positive reforms to the kingdom.

Even so, Linza’s mother had trained into her the idea that she had to maintain modesty if she was going to be taken seriously in a traditional field like alchemy. The Navy was still especially stodgy, but so far her mother’s advice had seemed valid.

Furthermore, Linza just didn’t feel like she had the charisma for it. ‘Provocative’ and ‘sexy’ were not on the list of adjectives she’d use to describe herself.

Wyn shook her head and put up a hand for Linza to wait, then finished swallowing her shortbread and washed it down with tea. “Hm. Don’t take this the wrong way—”

That always preceded Wyn saying something inappropriate.

“—but I think you’d really be great at that estate down by the beach.”

“The big one?”


Wyn looked gleefully enthused.

Linza felt deeply suspicious. She narrowed her eyes a bit. “Why?”

“Well, remember that smut you sent me?”

Linza blushed. “I didn’t send it to you, you stole it from my binder after I told you not to read it!”

“Yeah yeah, whatever. Well, it was great.”

Linza crossed her arms. “Yeah, but they wouldn’t want me to write smut, they’d want me to… y’know.” She felt so childish, trailing off like that. Not being able to say ‘the word’. But this was exactly her point! She wasn’t cut out for that kind of work.

Wyn shook her head again. “No, there’s all sorts of… what did they call them, ‘experiences’? There was one that they said used phangasmal… phangasm… um…”

“‘Phantasmal force’?” It was the name of an illusion spell that had particularly strong effects on the subject. Traditionally, it was a combat spell. The modus operandi was that you summoned an illusion of great danger, like flames or a dangerous beast, and the target was so convinced of the reality that they could truly be hurt.

“Yes, exactly!” Wyn said.

“That’s not usually a nice spell…”

“Well, this one was very nice…” Wyn’s eyes unfocused.

“Wait, you went?!” Linza was not scandalized so much as surprised that Wyn hadn’t told her. Well, okay, she was a little bit scandalized.

“Of course I did!” Wyn grinned widely. “It was amazing.”

Linza had been to the estate a couple of times to buy pastries or listen to the music and watch the sun set over the ocean. Harburich was a harbor city, and the estate was built along a particularly beautiful stretch of beach.

One of the outings that she’d thought was just lunch with a friend had awkwardly turned out to be a date, and she’d had to let him down as easily as she could right then and there. She was pretty sure he’d immediately gone in for one of the ‘experiences’. She hadn’t been back after that.

Linza’s academic curiosity overrode her trained modesty. “Okay, so, how exactly did it work?”

Wyn giggled, obviously pleased that she’d managed to get Linza to bite her hook. “Okay so, you go into this room, and there’s a mat and all these candles and it just… Mm! Smells amazing. And then there’s a little screen in one of the walls, and the caster is on the other side.”

Linza tilted her head. “Like a confessional?”

“Exactly like a confessional! Except the room isn’t that small. So then, you tell them what you like and what you’re looking for. They ask some questions back. And then they start!”

“Start what?”

“Start the spell!”

“I’m still not following.”

Wyn giggled again. “Linza, you are being distinctly unimaginative right now.”

“Take pity on me, please. Can you just spell it out?”

Spell it out?” Wyn’s eyes glittered.

Linza groaned and put her face in her hands.

Wyn laughed. “Alright, alright. So, they make an illusion. And that illusion can do things. Like be a friendly octopus mermaid. And just…” She sighed happily. “…fuck you in every hole.”

Linza’s first reaction was academic. This did indeed seem to be within the capabilities of the spell, especially if the target were willing. And, in fact, if the target knew that the spell was happening, they could end its effects at any time, simply by rejecting the illusion. By that same token, it seemed plausible for the target to choose to accept the effects and guarantee that the spell was successful.

Linza’s second reaction was visceral. Her heart fluttered. She felt even warmer. Arousal bloomed at just the idea of what Wyn had described.

“You know that spell, don’t you?” Wyn’s eager question pulled Linza out of her introspection.

Linza unfolded her arms and leaned back in to the table, fidgeting with the handle of her teacup. “I, uh, yeah.” One of the primary benefits of going to a formal school like JSMI is that it afforded students the opportunity to learn a great many spells. The natural limits on a student’s diversity of spells came down to the time required for practice and the expense of scratch paper, special ink, and replacement spellcasting focuses. Linza had learned nearly the whole library of both transmutation and illusion spells, and she need only spend some time refreshing her memory and the spell would be top-of-mind again.

Wyn looked at her expectantly.

Linza cleared her throat. “I’ll, uh, think about it.”

Wyn winked. “I can tell you’re thinking about it right now.”


“Maybe thinking about tentacles…” Wyn poked her fingers out at Linza as if to tickle her, “In all… sorts… of places…”

Linza ducked a poke to her head and jerked herself back from the table to dodge a poke at her hips. “Wyn!” She tried to sound cross but she just giggled like a school girl.

Wyn’s laughed her trumpet-like laugh and relented, slapping her knee. “Alright, alright,” she finally gasped, wiping tears from the corners of her eyes. “I’ll stop tormenting you.”

Linza took a sip of her tea and a moment to recollect her dignity. “So… how much do you think something like that pays?”

Wyn’s eyes brightened. “So you will do it!”

“I will inquire! I’m not doing anything yet!”

Wyn waggled her eyebrows, but did manage to report to Linza what she had spent for her quarter of an hour in the little confessional-like room.

Really?” Linza asked. It was about as much as somebody would pay for a fancy dinner. How many of those in a night could one person turn? Well, actually, there was quite a firm limit on how many spells one could cast in a day. Linza figured she could manage three or four.

Her analytical brain ran the numbers, amassing piles of coins.

Her body ran with arousal, her blood growing hotter.

Her heart raced in circles, unsure of quite how she felt.

But, what she’d told Wyn was true.

She would inquire.

Part 1: The Premise, The Alchemist's Illusions

Chapter 2: The Alchemist

Linza had attended the most prestigious university on the continent, The Jorunnr Schools of Magical Inquiry. It was abbreviated JSMI and pronounced affectionately as ‘yizmy’ and derisively as ‘jizz me’.

The school was centuries old, a stalwart fortress of hand-carved stone, a city-within-a-city nestled in the heart of Harburich, the kingdom’s capital. The university’s moat and walls had once protected the invaluable libraries inside from a decades-long siege even when Harburich’s walls had fallen. Now, they protected little but the egos of the school’s snootier members.

All throughout her stay there, those ancient libraries had enchanted Linza. Not literally, of course — the School of Enchantment was actually two buildings over from the library. 

She herself had majored in the School of Transmutation. It was one of the more technical degrees available and required close study of not only of magic but also mathematics and the science of matter.

Linza was as talented as she was studious. Though she blushed whenever someone said it, even she had to admit, she was a bit of a prodigy.

Given that she completed her work more quickly than most of the other students, she could have taken the extra time to rise from third in her class to first.

Instead, she opted to take a minor in a different school entirely — Illusion.

Where alchemists learned classical mathematics, illusionists learned the fine arts.

The halls of the School of Illusion were nothing like the School of Transmutation. Instead of laboratories, there were studios. Students carried charcoals and paints, not text books and abacuses. The whole School was colorful, lively and bright. Music filled the hallway and dazzling lights filled the air. There were art shows and theatre productions and weekly storytelling feasts.

And when the School wasn’t throwing parties, the students were, so that the School’s dorms remained boisterous late into the night.

Linza was always happy, then, that she hadn’t majored in the School of Illusion. After sunset, the School of Transmutation was so quiet that you could hear quills scratching away as students labored away at their homework. She preferred it that way, so that she could sleep well and meet the next day renewed.

Those four years passed with agonizing slowness and yet all too quickly. The heavy velvet robe that was the traditional attire for graduation felt about as heavy on her shoulders as the weight of the expectations now upon her. And the conical hat with gold trim just made her feel silly. 

The dean had presented her diploma with a bow, and she had picked up the rolled parchment sheaf with a mix of apprehension and wonder. It was finally time for her to set out into the world and make a name for herself.

In the following months, Linza learned that all of the promises of swift and gainful employment that had been lavished upon her by JSMI’s admissions staff four years prior had been — as she was all to familiar with from her minor — mere illusions. 

The loans that she had taken out to pay for the degree were, however, far too real.

JSMI had been correct that alchemists were in great demand, but only alchemists ‘with at least two years of experience in a professional setting’. Laboratory after laboratory assured Linza that she should think of them again in a couple of years as they handed her a rejection letter.

She made her way further and further down her list of potential employers, increasingly convinced that JSMI had been a bit of a scam. Of course, all the rich children landed prestigious jobs right away, regardless of their actual competence. 

Linza had few connections in the capital city other than the friends she’d made at JSMI. Her father was a sewer and her mother was a scribe in the royal navy. She’d enjoyed a modest and warm upbringing. Though she’d hoped to buoy the family with her new career, she started to fear that her debts would sink them all.

Linza persisted and eventually found a laboratory that was willing to hire recent graduates. She would technically be doing alchemy, yes, but of the most menial possible variety.

Her homework at the university had seemed droll and repetitive. Compared to her new job, even that homework now seemed exciting.

She scrubbed cauldrons. Re-checked derivations. Sorted salts. Pre-measured reagents to precise weights. Calibrated scales. Polished crystals.

It paid just enough to cover her room, her food, and the minimum payment on her loan.

Though her new boss assured here that there were ample career opportunities, Linza was not so sure. Several other people in her department had worked there for five years or more and had not yet been promoted. When the laboratory had thrown a party at the local tavern, Linza had sipped diluted wine while the senior alchemists got thoroughly sloshed. She’d sidled her way into their conversation and probed for clues about their salaries.

They barely made more than she did. After twenty years!

Linza resolved that she would wait out her two years scrubbing cauldrons until she could transfer to another laboratory where the prospects were better. 

But if she was going to last those two years, she needed to find something else to do with her mind so that it did not melt of boredom and dribble out of her ears.

Part 1: The Premise, The Alchemist's Illusions

Chapter 1: The Estate

The pleasure house sprawled along the shoreline with all the languid elegance of a nude reclining on the beach.

By this point, it was more of an estate than a house. There were no less than a dozen buildings and the streets between were part of the experience, too.

The estate was a temple dedicated to the senses.

Genius chefs prepared the most incredible food — elevated classics as well as new inventions. Hints as to their next dish snuck out from between the kitchen doors. The earthy smell of fresh bread, the tantalizing perfume of roasting herbs and meat.

There was always a stream of music flowing through the air, harps and lutes and whole ensembles. During celebrations, the melodies were jubilant, but otherwise they trailed soft and lingering like a fingertip over a lover’s shoulder and down to their waist.

The sights were equally dazzling. There were the natural beauties, the broad expense of the ocean, the spectacle of the sun making her blazing red bed upon it, the prettiest faces in the kingdom, the curves of muscle and flesh. There were also the crafted beauties, whole dresses of traditional beadwork, brave fashions in silk, wall-side murals and stalls hawking made-to-order paintings.

Just standing in the middle of the estate was so delightful, it was hard to imagine that yet more pleasures awaited. And, indeed, there were plenty of patrons that left totally sated after having gained nothing more than a new silk robe and a little box of pastries tied with red string.

However, foods and clothes and wares were not the only thing for sale in the estate. There were also ample opportunities to indulge in what the madame called experiences.

Many were explicitly sexual. Many were not.

The madame was a firm believer that pleasure was an experience which engaged both the senses and the heart, that the emotional and aesthetic and erotic were as inseparably intertwined as young lovers, and that there was little to be gained from trying to draw a firm line of what was sex and what was not.

Was laying back on a cushioned bed in the afternoon sunshine with gentle hands feeding you ripe strawberries sexual? It depended on the person. To some, it would be deeply arousing. To others, serene. To others, comforting and even maternal. The estate never made assumptions.

There were three rules governing all experiences at the pleasure house.

1. Everything given. 

2. Nothing taken.

3. Have fun.

‘Everything given’ meant that whatever was given — consent, payment, control — had to be given enthusiastically and without reservation.

‘Nothing taken’ meant that coercion and force were firmly forbidden. It also meant ‘nothing taken for granted’ which was a way of reinforcing that clear and consistent communication was expected.

‘Have fun’ meant just that.