Yet another bath.

Hans entered the bathhouse. The only other occupant was Gná, already undressed. She looked up at him, unalarmed.

“I’m sorry, My Lady. I didn’t mean to intrude. I’ll come back later.”

≪It’s not like I could really hamstring her. At least not on the first try. Well I could, but it would be more fun like this.≫

She held a hand up. “Wait, Lord Madison, please stay. We need to talk. I apologize for trying to kiss you. That was, unfair.”

Gná, unconcerned by her lack of dress, set out a stool. “Come sit down. Let me wash your back. It is the very least I can do for you.”

Hans looked about for any moral support. “I don’t know . . .”

Gná sat upon another stool behind the one she’d set out for Hans.

She waved at the seat. “Would it not be a great honor on your world to be bathed by a queen? How do you think Captain Za will react should she learn you declined? She respects you greatly, but she might think you dishonor me in declining, and feel obligated to do something about that.”

“Well, since I wouldn’t want to disappoint Captain Za . . .”

Hans removed his armor, the remains of Seidr’s robe, and the belted plaid with considerably less trepidation than the day before. He sat on the stool and Gná began work on his back with a soapy cloth.

She handed him another cloth and said, “I’ll even be considerate and let you do your own front side.”

“By all that is good,” she commented. “You aren’t unscathed. To you fortune, I tend Za after a fight. I have some boiled cloths and ointments just for treating cuts and scrapes. This will sting. But you’ll be happy to know that we’re quite aware of germs and infection.”

Hans winced as she attended one of the deeper cuts.

“I see that men of any race have little changed. You’ll walk around bleeding to death but cringe at medicine.”

Some of his scrapes and cuts needed extra attention, having been ignored since the morning. Gná seemed adept at cleaning them, but with little sympathy.

To her credit, Hans felt nothing but soapy cloth on his back as he scrubbed at his arms and chest.

She rinsed his back down. When he stood, she caught him by the wrist.

“Would you also do my back, please, Madison? I do not have my sister’s flexibility and as you can see I have no one else to call on,” she all but begged.

It did seem odd to him that no one else had come in, but he dismissed the thought. He had deliberately chosen to bathe late for just that reason.

Hans looked down at her. Her doe-like eyes looking back at him wistfully. Her chest heaved softly. He sat down quickly, so that he wouldn’t offend her by becoming aroused.

“It would be my pleasure.” Hans could have smacked himself on the head. He shouldn’t be giving her mixed signals like that.

Gná stood, careful to not flash her pubic area in his face, and turned to sit with her back to him. He got a full view of her behind as she bent to sit down, though. Talk about your mixed signals.

As she scrubbed her back she made many appreciative little grunts. He rinsed her down the moment he was done.

Gná stood, this time without flashing him at all. He wasn’t sure if he should be thankful or not. She motioned him toward one of the smaller tubs, the only one with steam coming off it.

“I’ll let you soak alone,” offered Hans.

It’s one thing to be in love with a woman, he thought to himself, it’s another to have an equally beautiful one, naked and amorous, right in front of you.

Gná pouted. “Oh please, Madison. I promise to behave. And we have yet to have our chat after all.”

Hans shrugged and got into the tub.

Gná settled into the water, “Thank you for doing my back too, Madison. I confess I was yet hoping you were thinking of getting . . . What is the word, ‘frisky?'”

≪Are you going to put up with this?≫

For a moment Hans considered admitting that getting ‘frisky’ had occurred to him. All it would take was a word, a touch, or even the right gesture and she would be in his arms. An image of her elegant back, covered in soap, lodged itself in his brain and took effort to shake loose.

“I’m sorry, Gná, but I love Seidr.”

Gná smiled. “I should like to see you with her again, Madison, if only to be witness to such a love. But with the aether disturbed, I have no way to reach her or even send her word that we have moved. I fear it may yet be some time before you hold her in your arms again.”

Hans decided to look up at the ceiling. Gná’s body was a little too perfect, and distracting. He tried thinking about Seidr but that was having much the same effect as looking at Gná.

≪Yes! Go for it!≫

Gná felt someone tip her head back and wet down her hair. One of the nice shampoos was applied to her hair and deft hands massaged it into her scalp lovingly.

≪Hey!≫

Someone hadn’t gotten word, but she never scolded a person for trying to do her job, especially when she was doing it well.

“Mmm. That feels good.”

From the scent, it wasn’t one of the usual shampoos they used. It smelled like . . . it couldn’t be!

“It’s the least I could do for your bathing my man for me,” said the owner of the hands.

“SEIDR?!” With a screech, Gná leapt to her feet, still in the tub. Shampoo dripped from her hair.

Agog at Seidr’s presence, she demanded, “How did you get here?”

≪Imhotep’s stones! I thought you were going to rip her hair out by the roots, but that was almost as good.≫

Seidr, quite naked as well, shrugged. “It’s a community bath. I opened the door and stepped inside.”

“No, I mean the aether is disturbed. Weren’t you trapped in your cave? How did you find us?”

Seidr looked confused. “Aether? What has that got to do with portals? I summon a singularity and go where I want to, just like always. Now sit back down. You’re dripping soap into the water. And giving my man more of a view than is appropriate, even in a bath.”

Hans would have agreed if it were possible to talk. He hoped nobody would notice the effect on him that view had just made. “Watch, or join in” rang in his ears. The urges he was feeling about then were particularly strong.

Her eyes looking like a trapped animals, Gná sat back down in the tub and let Seidr rinse her hair. Humming a pleasant tune, Seidr took up a comb and very gently started working on tangles.

“How long have you been watching us?” Gná’s voice quavered.

“First unanswered question is how did I find you. Especially since I no longer have that last shard of your mother’s mirror. Simply put Gná, Dear. I have other sources of information. I’ve never even used any of those shards. That could have made restoring your mirror, shall we say, difficult. In this case, as they say on Madison’s world, a little bird told me.”

Seidr winked at Hans. He sank into the tub with a silly grin on his face.

≪That ‘little bird’ and I are going to have some serious words.≫

Cheerily, Seidr continued her work on Gná’s hair. “Hold still, bad tangle. Now, how long have I been watching. Does, ‘I apologize for trying to kiss you,’ sound familiar?”

Gná blushed and sank into the water herself, leaving Seidr holding several detached strands of hair.

≪Now that’s more like it!≫

Sounding quite sincere, Seidr squeaked, “Oops, sorry.”

* * *

Hans and Seidr walked out of the bathhouse. Hans was wearing his belted plaid, and a loin cloth if anyone asked, but no armor save his belt. Seidr was wearing her golden bra and skirt, with the addition of a long, white loin cloth of her own, visible through the skirt. He thought it looked damned sexy.

Hans commented, “So a little bird told you I needed you?”

“Yes. Apparently he can come and go anywhere he pleases, warded or not.”

≪Scared the piss out of me is what he did!≫

Hans laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

He shrugged, “I just had an amusing thought about how Bast might have reacted to his sudden appearance.”

Seidr giggled, “She’d never forgive me if I told you. You know, it’s a good thing I showed up in time to rescue you.”

“Rescue me?” Hans stopped and turned to face Seidr.

She poked him in the chest. “Aye. From naked women in bath tubs. They didn’t take up community bathing until some time after there were no more menfolk among them. You’ve been, as they say on your world, suckered.”

“I, er, they said . . .” Hans’ hands gesticulated wildly.

Seidr placed a finger on Hans’ lips. “Gná wants you for herself, you know that. I can’t say that I blame her. By getting you worked up with me out of the way . . . Well, you’re young. But I’m here now, to take care of your needs, and I’ll never leave your side again. This is your chamber?” She pointed to a door.

≪Gee, that didn’t take long. Are you sure you don’t want to start going at it out in the hallway?≫

Wanting to sound intelligent, Hans said, “Uh huh.”

Seidr opened the door. Seidr closed the door. She turned around and leaned, or fell, back against it. Her jaw hung open.

≪Hominids!≫

“That was Za, the steel maiden herself. But who’s the aelfman she’s screwing?”

Hans let off a half-laugh. “Must be my friend, Hasaki. But I thought he had his own room.”

Hans’ private thoughts were a bit uncharitable.

“That’s a Midgard name. Japanese?”

“Yes, turns out he’s a changeling. He and my other friend Gordon managed to open their own portal last night. It took them to Gná’s Hall. That’s what Gná meant about the aether being disturbed. She can’t open any portals at all right now. I’m glad you can, though.”

Seidr stood away from the door, hands on her hips. “OK. We give them an hour then kick them out for our turn. Perhaps you can introduce me to this other friend, Gordon, while we wait.”

Figuring he should be able to last an hour, Hans led Seidr down the hallway. Cheers, laughter, and, yes, tittering, could be heard from ahead from behind one of the doors. A disheveled elf stepped out. She flashed a smile at Hans and Seidr and dashed off the other way.

Hans stopped in front of the same door. “After all the fighting today he set up an infirmary in . . .”

Hans opened the door. Hans closed the door. He set his head against it with a soft thump. He decided that Jinsoku only had thirty minutes, then he and Za could sit and watch for all he cared.

He stepped back and turned to Seidr. “Orgy,” he said, deadpan.

Seidr squealed, “Really? Let me see.”

Seidr opened and closed the door.

≪Oh for the love of Isis. I thought you two were bad.≫

Seidr turned to Hans, chewing on her lower lip. “Not quite an orgy. More like a threesome with lots of cheering. What do you suppose ‘take a number’ means?”

Hans put his hands to his forehead and shook his head. “I don’t want to know. I really don’t want to know.”

Seidr pouted. “Seems everyone’s having fun but us. Well, there’s only one thing to do when sexually frustrated.”

Hans peeked out from under his hands. “What’s that?”

Seidr was already sashaying down the hall, a finger beckoning Hans to follow. “Eat. Pickles and cream sound good about now.”

Next: in editing

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Copyright AndyOH! (Andrew F. Odendhal)
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This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.