"The Doors Into Otherwheres: Five Women Segnbora Didn’t Sleep With (And Three She Did)"
A multi-fandom femmeslash extravaganza
starring Segnbora of Diane Duane’s “The Door Into…” series
co-starring Kylara of Pern, Karen Kasumi of X/1999, and Storm of the X-Men
and featuring several mystery cameos

Fandoms: Diane Duane’s “Door” books, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, The X-Men (Chris Claremont-era comicverse), and X/1999
Word Count: 6600
Rating: R
Warnings: Consensual sex including mild BDSM; adventure-style mild violence.
Synopsis: Segnbora travels to other universes via the worldgate doors, meeting women, saving lives, having adventures, and getting new perspectives on herself.

This story is for [personal profile] cmattg, who won it in the [profile] helphaiti auction.

If you haven’t read the Door books, Segnbora is a failed wizard who is canonically bisexual and polyamorous. The Fire or Flame is the magic she can’t access, though she does have other magical abilities. The story takes place during the first book, The Door Into Fire, when she and her friends are hanging out in the ruin with the doors into otherworlds.

It’s not significantly spoilery for anything in any canon. But if you want to know what was up with the dragons, you will have to read the second book, The Door Into Shadow.

This story contains several additional bonus surprise crossovers. The person who correctly identifies the highest number of them in comments can make an original or fic prompt request, and I will attempt to fill it.

Segnbora leaned against the wall of gray stone, looking up at the unfamiliar stars and imagining new constellations to distract herself from the insistent press of her underhearing. But nothing could shut out Herewiss being unhappy and frustrated, Lorn dreaming of endlessly beating his fists against closed doors, Moris and Dritt’s muscles stiffening against the cold floor, Harald’s nose and throat vibrating as he snored, Lang abruptly shifting from oblivion to dream, and the greedy lick of flames that was Sunspark.

She resolutely pulled her attention back to the stars. The curving line of three bright stars and two faint ones could be a woman’s hip as she shifted her weight to pour wine or climb into bed. “The Hip” wasn’t very elegant; “The Loved,” perhaps. Five brilliant white stars in a slightly lopsided circle couldn’t be anything but “The Breast.” And the single crimson star half-visible through filmy clouds could be…

Segnbora’s pants chafed against her thighs. She shifted her position, then shifted again. It hadn’t been long since she’d last shared, and that had been with the Goddess herself. That should have kept her contented for years. But that sweet encounter had left her, not unsatisfied, but eager and open. She would have thought that she felt like a girl again, except that then she hadn’t known what a joy sharing could be. Even as a woman she hadn’t known, until the green-eyed innkeeper had taught her.

Segnbora stood. She would wake up Lang; he wouldn’t mind. But when she came into the room where they all slept, he was laid out in such an exhausted sprawl that she hadn’t the heart to wake him. She stood over him and watched him breathe, touched that he didn’t wake as she would have had anyone, even one of her companions, stood over her. Even in his sleep, he trusted her as she could never quite bring herself to trust him.

She could go to her room and pleasure herself. But that thought, as always, gave her a vague sense of unease. Instead, she slipped past the men and into the hall with the doors into Otherwheres. Short of a plunge into a freezing lake, there could be no better distraction from restless thoughts than…

… a door-shaped wedge of water of such a dark blue that she mistook it for open space until she saw a ripple. A vast white shape swam up, a flat black eye met hers, and she perceived a depth of hunger and ruthlessness that surpassed her own.

But I’m not like…

Before she could complete the thought, the being – some huge fish – was gone.

The next door too opened to the dark of night. A mob of men, their mouths moving silently, pursued a fleeing woman wearing a dress and head-scarf so red that they stung the eye. The woman swayed, panting, before the door, and Segnbora began to reach out her hand. But the woman tilted up her face, and in her cat-like eyes Segnbora recognized the cunning of a devourer – not a predator like the great fish, but something twisted, like a nightmare or a Fyrd. Segnbora drew back. The woman laughed soundlessly, exposing sharp teeth, and ran on until she and her pursuers were lost from view.

Shaken, Segnbora edged away from the door, then hesitated in the hallway. The doors seemed to have changed with the coming of night, showing scenes entirely different from the beautiful landscapes they had opened upon earlier in the day.

One more, and then I’ll go to sleep. One more, and Goddess, let the last one be something different so I can sleep.

Perhaps the Goddess heard, for the third door looked out upon a beach of white sand and blue wavelets backed by trees whose boughs bent with the weight of scarlet fruit. Segnbora offered her thanks for this idyllic vision. After watching the waves for a while, it occurred to her that they’d been able to reach into other doors to test the air, and that the nearest fruit was within arms’ reach. If she could reach in, she should be able to pull something out. She extended her hand into humid air, grasped the fruit, and tugged. The stem was tougher than she had expected. She gave it a sharp twist, slipped, and tumbled headlong through the door.

Segnbora rolled, protecting her face, and came to rest with her back cushioned against hot sand. An eye bigger than her own head looked down at her. Segnbora blinked up at the golden Dragon, then scrambled to her feet.

The Dragon bespoke her. (How did you go between by yourself? I hadn’t known humans could do that.)

(Greetings,) replied Segnbora. (I came through a door – a worldgate. You can see it there… I hope.)

The Dragon followed Segnbora’s gesture. There was indeed, if you knew to look for it, a door-shaped shimmer in the air.

“Prideth!” The voice sounded like the dragon’s own, but higher-pitched. A golden-haired woman strode down the beach, her crimson skirts swishing around her knees. She stopped and stared at Segnbora, then at the Dragon.

(Who is this?) asked the woman.

(She came from another world. See, there’s the gate.) The Dragon dipped her head to regard Segnbora with some interest. (She can hear us.)

“Oh, another ‘hears all dragons?’ As if one Lessa wasn’t more than enough!” The woman turned to Segnbora, looking annoyed. “Where’s your dragon?”

“In my world, Dragons and humans usually live apart.” Segnbora touched the woman’s hand, then the Dragon’s offered claw. “Segnbora, Welcaen’s daughter.”

“Kylara, Weyrwoman. And this is Prideth.”

The discontented lines of Kylara’s face smoothed out as she spoke the Dragon’s name, and the link between woman and Dragon blazed with so much love and trust and need that Segnbora flinched away. It was like the bond between parents and children, between best friends and lovers, and between humans and horses, but more interlaced with dependency than any of those ought to be. A story came unbidden to her mind, about a foolish pair of Rodmistresses who had sought to honor their love by merging their souls. When one had died, the other had gone mad…

Kylara pointed to Charriselm. “Women duel on your world?”

“Sometimes. That’s not why I bear a sword, though.” She offered Kylara an image of herself and Eftgan fighting a Fyrd, but it bounced off the other woman’s mind. Kylara only seemed able to bespeak and be bespoken by Prideth. Segnbora sent it again, this time to the Dragon.

“Who’s that woman?” Kylara asked.

“My friend. My loved.” Segnbora hesitated, for Kylara radiated the greedy hold on power that characterized a ruler who shouldn’t be one. “A queen.”

Kylara’s eyes widened. “Is that common, in your world? For women to be with women? For women to rule?”

“As common as it is for men to be with men, and with women, and for men to rule.”

Kylara followed Segnbora’s gaze to the shimmering door, and Segnbora caught a rush of jumbled images: Kylara crowned, Kylara standing proud and tall while men knelt at her feet, Kylara’s sword slowly dripping blood on to the still body of a handsome man.

Still lost in fantasies of power and violence, Kylara took a step toward the door.

“Prideth couldn’t fit through,” said Segnbora.

“I know that!” snapped Kylara. “I just –“

A piercing shriek tore through the air, accompanied by such an overwhelming tide of hunger and lust that Segnbora staggered. The taste of blood filled her mouth, hot and delicious. For an instant she was a Dragon with her fangs in the throat of a herd beast, drinking her fill before she would rise to mate.

Kylara licked her lips. “Can you feel that? A green is blooding her kill.”

Segnbora nodded. She was used to detaching herself from other people’s emotions, but it was difficult when there were so many people involved, both human and Dragon, and when the feelings were so intense. Kylara’s mind filled with fantasies of herself and Segnbora, naked and entwined, so vivid that for a moment Segnbora thought the other woman’s blonde hair really was falling over her own bare breasts.

“Before I Impressed Prideth, I was a girl in a boring hold in the middle of nowhere,” said Kylara. Her voice dropped to a husky whisper. “A green dragon flew over our hold to mate. Most of the holders didn’t feel a thing - the insensitive clods. But I felt it, and so did the two boys who were helping me fix the shutters. We tore each others’ clothes off and slammed each other into the walls and floor. I was bruised all over, and I bit one of them so hard that he still had a scar when I left the hold forever. I thought life in the Weyr would be like that. Ha! I told T’bor that story, and he was disgusted. Because I was with more than one man at the same time. Because I enjoyed the pain. Is that wrong, where you come from?”

“No,” said Segnbora. “None of that is wrong.”

The green Dragon was aloft now, glorying in flight. Twelve male Dragons pursued her, each with his own plan to catch her. In a hot, close room thirteen men waited, linked to their dragons. Two would share when the male Dragon linked to one caught the female linked to the other, and the rest would fall upon each other or on the women who waited with them.

Segnbora blinked at the sunlight of the beach, dazzling after the darkness of the room. Kylara caught her gaze, then slowly pulled off her red dress. Her body was as lush as any Segnbora had seen, with full breasts barely contained in her underbodice and a flat belly above well-muscled thighs.

“Show me that it isn’t wrong,” whispered Kylara.

(What do you think?) Segnbora asked the Dragon.

Prideth sent her a Draconic shrug. (If she’s happy, I’m happy.) After a moment’s consideration, she added, (She is not often happy.)

Though Segnbora wasn’t certain that she liked Kylara, she never could resist the lure of fulfilling the fantasy of a beautiful woman. Segnbora whipped Charriselm from the hilt, using the flashy opening movement of the form “Parting the Waters.” She slashed the blade downward, slicing Kylara’s underbodice and revealing her heavy, pink-tipped breasts. Kylara shuddered, but not from fear.

“Stand very still,” murmured Segnbora. Two more cuts sent the bodice fluttering to the sand. Another two, even more careful, revealed the near-transparent hair between Kylara’s thighs.

(She wants you to look into her mind,) suggested Prideth.

Segnbora glanced within and suppressed a smile, which would have spoiled the stern effect she could feel Kylara enjoying. Kylara liked pain and Kylara liked being pushed and shoved and slammed up against hard objects, but she also liked being in control. It was an interesting combination of desires. To satisfy her, Segnbora would have to obey her commands to command her.

She sheathed Charriselm and grabbed the naked woman roughly by the arm, squeezing hard enough to leave bruises. “Move!”

Kylara stumbled forward, her mind surging with images of the crisp blue outlines that would form on her pale flesh, and with the pleasure of making Segnbora, a warrior, a speaker to Dragons, a companion to queens, do exactly as Kylara ordered.

Segnbora threw her up against a tree trunk, letting Kylara’s thrill at the bruising impact wash over her own mind, then pushed her down to the ground.

“Undress me,” Segnbora ordered. “And don’t you dare be rough. That’s for me to do to you.”

Kylara stripped Segnbora with exaggerated care. Her hands were as callused as Segnbora’s own, but in different places. Kylara had never held a sword, but she had her own battles to fight.

Segnbora leaned back against the tree until the kneeling woman’s mouth was in exactly the right place. She could feel Kylara’s warm breath ruffling her curly hair below, and her order came out in a voice that broke on the first word. “You - you know what to do. Do it right, or – that is, do it right, and I’ll punish you.”

Startlingly, Kylara laughed. “I don’t know, but I can guess.”

She leaned in and performed her task with a will. She was awkward and rough at first, but her mouth was hot, and her tongue flicked and caressed in obedience to Segnbora’s shudders and gasps. As she grew more confident, she reached up to stroke and tease Segnbora’s nipples. Segnbora dug her clipped fingernails into Kylara’s muscled shoulders, at first because Kylara wanted her to and then to keep her balance and finally with unfeigned ecstasy.

When she came back to herself, with blood under her nails and bark scratches on her back, she shoved Kylara down to the ground, pinned her, and enjoyed the woman’s body at her leisure. If Segnbora kissed less and bit more than she normally would have, it was not entirely at Kylara’s will. There was something appealing in the mixture of cruelty and kindness, of abandon and control.

The salt water stung in Segnbora’s scratches when the women went into the ocean to bathe. She winced, as much from Kylara’s pain as from her own. Kylara winced too, but a wash of enjoyment underlay her shudders.

On the beach, Kylara draped the remnants of her dress around her reddened shoulders. “I wonder what T’bor will think when he sees me. The brute.”

(He isn’t, you know,) said Prideth.

(Yes, and that’s his problem,) retorted Kylara. (Oh, don’t worry. Some day I’ll taunt him into beating me. Then I’ll have some fun, and afterward I’ll have something to hold over him.)

“You shouldn’t do that,” Segnbora said, disturbed. “Find someone who shares your pleasures – don’t try to trick someone who doesn’t.”

“What do you know?” Kylara snapped. “It’s easy for you!”

Segnbora didn’t reply. She had enjoyed enacting the fantasy, but the afterglow left a lot to be desired.

(You made her happy,) said Prideth.

(No one can make someone else happy,) Segnbora replied.

Kylara stared at the Dragon. “Are you talking to her? Without me? Don’t talk to her so I can’t hear!”

The tangled web of their bond was laid open to Segnbora, loving and tortured and unbreakable. She had never been a part of anything so twisted. She had never been a part of anything so strong. She wanted to say something that would make everything better, but her own words rang in her ears and left her with nothing honest to say. Segnbora turned her back on the woman and Dragon, and stepped through the door.

Cool air closed around her. Segnbora leaned against the wall, wondering why the encounter had disturbed her so. Though Kylara’s tastes tended toward the extreme, it wasn’t as if Segnbora was a delicate flower. In the wake of a battle or even a particularly intense sparring match, she and Eftgan had often ripped each other’s clothes off and bruised each other’s backs on stone. And though Segnbora had an aversion to being tied up or struck, even in play, she was perfectly willing to do it to her loveds upon request.

Then she thought of the golden Dragon whose life was bound to Kylara’s and whose happiness depended upon that of a woman who could never be satisfied. Even a brief touch upon that inescapable intimacy had unnerved Segnbora.

She looked away in an instinctive effort to escape her thoughts, and her gaze fell upon the next doorway. It was a peaceful scene of water broken by distant islands, a dark man sailing a boat, and, flying so high overhead that at first she thought it was a hawk, a Dragon.

Segnbora moved to the next door. An inferno roared up before her. She leaped backward with her hands flung over her eyes. Then, realizing that there had been no heat, she peered into the blaze. Her eyes watered and stung from the brightness, but she gradually perceived the forms within: a girl, naked and unburning, cradling three jeweled eggs. As Segnbora watched, one of the eggs burst apart and a small black dragon stretched out its wings.

None of her other companions had seen even one Dragon through the doors, but they seemed to be pursuing her tonight. She backed away from the door, rubbing her eyes. Then, driven by the feeling that the Goddess was playing a joke on her and wondering how far she would go, she decided to check one more door for Dragons.

She was greeted with another burst of flame. When this one died down she saw the flat top of some vast tower, and on it a woman all the colors of fire, from her bright red corset and boots to her ruby hair to the flickering blaze she held balanced on the palm of her hand.

A Rodmistress, Segnbora thought with a pang of envy.

A tidal wave broke over the woman and her flame. She staggered and fell to her knees, and the fire in her hand went out.

A man in a pink coat strolled up to her, smiling.

“I hate to kill you,” he said. “But we do what we must. I’m sure you’d hate to kill me too.”

The woman, coughing and choking, could not reply. The man held out his hand, and the shallow pool around them rose up to trap her in a waterspout.

Segnbora leaped through the door. Before the man could react, Charriselm’s point was dimpling the skin at his throat. “Release her!”

The man blinked in mild surprise. “You Dragons of Heaven make such marvelously dramatic entrances. I appreciate the effort, I really do.”

Segnbora drove Charriselm deeper, drawing blood. “I said release her!”

“If you insist.” He negligently waved his hand, and the waterspout fell as rain. The woman inside fell too, then stubbornly raised herself on hands and knees.

“Till the next time,” the man said. To Segnbora’s surprise, he leaped away like a great cat, almost flying, and was gone across the strange landscape of glittering towers.

The woman staggered to her feet, but the hand she held out to Segnbora dipped with practiced grace. “Thank you. I’m Karen Kasumi. And you are… not a Dragon of Heaven, I know that.”

“I’m Segnbora, Welcaen’s daughter. I came through a gate, from another world. And I’m not any kind of Dragon, though I’d think you both could see that.”

Karen smiled. “I’m a Dragon of Heaven – one of the Seven Seals. The man I was fighting is a Dragon of Earth. It’s only a title.”

She cupped her hands as a Rodmistress might to call up the Flame – as Segnbora could to call up the brilliant light that was the only use she could make of own Flame. But Segnbora now perceived that they were surrounded by a field of Otherwhere. As Karen called it back, the normal space and time of this place resumed in a babble of sounds and voices.

“So the Dragons of Earth are fighting for the Shadow?” Segnbora asked.

Karen fingered a necklace she wore. The pendant was simple, a short metal bar crossed over a long one. “They’re trying to start a revolution, to destroy the Earth so they can begin it again. We’re trying to preserve the current world, so life can continue as it is.”

Segnbora nodded. “We have the same battle on our world. It’s the same on every world, I think.”

“Have you come to help us?” Karen asked. “Or are you only passing through?”

“Passing through, I’m afraid. If I came for any reason at all, I think it was only to save you from drowning.”

“That’s more than enough!” Karen exclaimed. “But please, come to my home. I’d like to offer you my hospitality. It’s the least I can do, after you saved my life.”

The crowds and flashing lights and fast-moving objects of this world were nearly overwhelming, but Karen did her best to put Segnbora at ease with light chatter and explanations of what everything was.

At her home, which like her battleground was in a tower, Karen changed out of her wet scraps of clothing and into a long red dress. She gave Segnbora tea that smelled like grass and tasted like bitter herbs, brewed over a fire she lit with a flick of her fingers, and soft white cakes filled with sweet red paste.

Segnbora ate slowly, savoring the strangeness of it all. Karen spoke little of herself and asked no personal questions, but seemed fascinated by Segnbora’s world. Relaxing into the warmth of Karen’s regard, Segnbora began telling stories of swordplay and sharing, of songs sung at inns and battlefield wreakings, and finally of her own failed quest to channel her Fire.

“I know someone like that,” Karen said at last. “He can’t make a barrier – what you call a field of Otherwhere. And without it, though he can fight, he can’t protect people the way he wants to. He wonders why he was made a Dragon of Heaven when he can’t do what we’re born to do.”

“I feel the same way. I don’t know why the Goddess gave me so much Fire when I can’t channel it,” said Segnbora.

“Because you will channel it.” Karen leaned forward and put her small hand on Segnbora’s thigh. “We aren’t given these gifts for them to die unused. There’s a purpose for everyone and everything. All we need is to have faith.”

Segnbora felt the conviction behind Karen’s words, but also an aching depth of loneliness that matched her own sorrow. Her eyes prickled with unshed tears. “I’ve lost mine.”

“Nothing is lost forever.” Karen pulled Segnbora close and kissed her. Her lips were soft, her mouth tasted of the bitter tea, and the heat that rose from her body carried the scent of the heart of a flame.

Their sharing was gentle and slow, and while they spoke little, little speech was required.
Segnbora could feel what Karen felt, and Karen – not quite a sensitive, but almost – was adept at perceiving Segnbora’s emotions and desires. Segnbora knew not to ever pin Karen’s wrists or even playfully tug at her hair, and didn’t have to ask to know that the other woman preferred fingers to mouth. And when Karen kissed a spot between Segnbora’s shoulder blades that only one loved had ever kissed before, it was all Segnbora could do to hold back her tears.

They never moved from the couch until Karen got up to bring them more tea. Segnbora liked it better now that she had tasted it on Karen’s lips.

A shimmer caught her attention, and she saw that the door had apparently followed her to Karen’s apartment. Segnbora resignedly indicated it. “It looks like my time is up.”

“I know you’ll find what you’re looking for.” Karen stood up. “Farewell, Segnbora. May you defeat your Shadow, as I mean to defeat mine.”

“In our world, people who defeat the Shadow usually die of it.”

“In our world too,” replied Karen. “But at least we’re dying for a purpose. And death is not the end.”

“The Door into Starlight,” murmured Segnbora. “You’re right. We’ll see each other again.”

When she stepped back into the hall of gray stone, the taste of Karen’s tea lingered in her mouth, and the strength of Karen’s belief in her lingered in her heart.

She knew that she should be tired, not to mention done with sharing for a week or so, but she wasn’t. Nor, she suspected, was the Goddess done with her.

“Ask for what you want if you’re brave enough to take it,” she murmured to herself. “I certainly asked.”

Segnbora looked into the nearest doorway. The scene would have been an ordinary desert landscape, except that the light was blue and the moon was black. A girl strolled by, calm but alert. Sparks trailed from her glowing right hand.

At the next door, a brown-skinned woman whose hands were veined with lines of light pushed back her yellow hair. The rainbow snake that coiled about her shoulders ecstatically rubbed his head against her cheek.

Segnbora was no slow learner, so she approached the third door with a mixture of caution and anticipation. Two doors to look into, and one to enter. Two doors that led to Dragons, and women, and women who were Dragons. She strode forward, expecting fire.

She stepped into a misty garden. Glancing around, she saw that she was in a greenhouse filled with thriving plants, some familiar and some not. She seemed to be alone, but the fog was so thick that she couldn’t be certain.

“Is anyone here?” Segnbora called out.

She saw the movement out of the corner of her eye and threw herself to the side. Segnbora crashed through a glass case, shattering it. A bolt of energy sizzled past her, barely missing her neck, and exploded against the opposite wall.

She rolled and kept rolling. Another energy bolt struck the ground, and more glass broke from the shock wave.

“Don’t attack!” she shouted. “I don’t even know who you are, and I know you don’t know me!”

The next bolt singed her hair. Her ears ringing, she barely heard the man’s laugh.

“I never know the people I kill!” he shouted. “But they know me! Die, whoever you are! Die at the hands of Harpoon!”

She didn’t have time to craft a sorcery, and she suspected she was too far from her opponent to fight with Charriselm. She grabbed the nearest plant in a pot and hurled it in the direction the bolts had come from. A yell told her that she’d hit her target. She leaped up, but before she could charge or even see through the mist, she heard another crash and another yell.

“For shame, Harpoon,” came a cool woman’s voice. There was a crack like wood on bone, and a grunt of pain. “Did you fear her too much to offer her a fair fight? But then, you Marauders have never been anything but cowards.”

Another crack, and the familiar slithering thud of a body falling to the floor.

Segnbora ran toward the voice. Beyond the mist lay an unconscious man, and standing over him was a tall, slim woman dressed in black leather, with rich brown skin and white hair cut into a magnificent crest. She held a staff, which she idly twirled in her black-gloved hands.

“Thank you,” said Segnbora. “And greetings. I’m Segnbora, Welcaen’s daughter.”

“I am Storm,” said the woman. “How did you get into the mansion? Quickly; I expect the other Marauders are about.”

Segnbora reached out with her underhearing, and felt the shock that comes with contact with a powerful personality, or with a person with a great deal of Fire. Or both.

“I’m from another world, and I came through a door,” she explained.

Storm nodded; she was clearly familiar with such things. “But who are you, apart from your name?”

“I…” Segnbora almost wished another Marauder would attack to save her from answering that question. “I can fight, and I can do some sorcery. I can help defend your home from these Marauders, if you like.”

“A pity, fireheart, that I am no Marauder to be driven off by stick and blade.” This new voice was a man’s, deep and resonant.

Segnbora turned to see a man in a black cape. Her underhearing caught a swirl of conflicted feelings from Storm, warring so fiercely with each other that Segnbora couldn’t distinguish any single one.

“Come back to me, windrider, true goddess of the night.” The caped man held out his hand.

“I am no longer a windrider,” replied Storm. “Nor am I a goddess.”

For a man whose first words had been so threatening, his response was gentle. “I know what was done to you. But your heart is untouched. Your spirit is untouched. It was never your powers that gave you worth, any more than it is the lust for blood that makes me lord of the night. Come with me, lady lightning, and be queen of sky and darkness.”

Storm’s gloved hands clenched into fists, but anger wasn’t the main feeling Segnbora read from her. And as for the man…

Segnbora cleared her throat. “Ah… Storm… I don’t know if you have underhearing, but I do, and I can’t read anything from either this man or the one who attacked us earlier. It’s like they aren’t there.”

“She’s jealous,” the man said quickly. “Ignore her. Come –“

Storm slammed her staff into the side of his head. He hissed, spun around in a swirl of black cloth, and melted into the mist.

“The real Dracula would not have been defeated so easily,” said Storm. “And he has nothing to do with the Marauders, as far as I know. And speaking of the Marauders, Harpoon seems to have disappeared. This is some illusion or sorcery. It might be Loki… or Emma Frost… or Mastermind… or Belasco… or…”

Storm spoke so calmly that Segnbora was first taken aback, then laughed. “Are you often attacked and tempted by masters of illusion?”

“Yes,” said Storm. A hint of her own laughter glinted in her eyes. “Quite often. Segnbora, you are a telepath – can you feel anyone else in this house?”

Segnbora concentrated. “Yes. Something – someone...” The sense was neither of feeling nor physicality, but a twisted, haunted presence, a whirling dance of broken patterns. She pointed. “There!”

A six-armed woman in golden armor stepped out of the mist.

“Spiral!” exclaimed Storm.

“Yes, yes,” hissed the woman. Her golden helmet hid her eyes and cast strange shadows about her face. “Your team is away, leaving two helpless mice as prey.”

Segnbora drew her sword, and Storm swung her staff. Spiral’s fingers wove a hasty pattern, and Segnbora was frozen in place. Beside her, she felt Storm’s muscles lock.

“So sweet, so sweet,” muttered Spiral. “The windrider who cannot command the winds, and the flamebearer who cannot light a fire. So much power so sadly wasted – but all the more for Spiral to steal!”

(Segnbora, you said you were a sorceress.) Storm bespoke her in the over-articulated manner of one unused to mindspeech. (Spiral likes to gloat. If you start now, you should have time to cast a spell or break this one.)

Segnbora couldn’t begin to figure out what Spiral had done to them, but she began to build a spell to knock the strange woman unconscious. But Spiral swung around to stare at her before she could do more than balance one small word atop a larger one.

“Naughty spellweaver!” Spiral slapped Segnbora, breaking her concentration. “And still a failure. You will never fly again, rain maker, and you, shadow wielder, you will never fly at all.”

No sorcery could be created instantaneously, but there was one thing Segnbora needed no time or movement to do. Calling upon her inner Flame, she materialized it in a burst of blinding blue light.

Spiral flung an arm over her eyes. Her spell broke. Storm kicked her full in the chest, knocking her down. Segnbora unsheathed Charriselm and held the sword to Spiral’s throat.

“Begone,” said Storm. “Or we will show you the same mercy you showed us.”

“Mercy?” Spiral laughed, a mirthless cackle that ended in a horrible gurgle. “You’d get more from me than from your friend beside you! She keeps it locked away in her mind, under the same rock she uses to pin down –“

Segnbora dug Charriselm deeper into Spiral’s throat, drawing blood and cutting off her words. Suddenly there was no resistance. Segnbora lurched forward, and Charriselm plunged into empty air. The six-armed woman had vanished.

“What was that about?” asked Segnbora.

Storm shrugged, and the glint of humor was again visible in her eyes. “We are often attacked by mysterious villains with complex plots and unclear motives. But you are injured. Come, let me tend your wounds.”

Segnbora looked down, and saw that she was bleeding from a number of small cuts. “I’d be embarrassed to call these little scratches wounds.”

“Nevertheless.” Storm hesitated, looking Segnbora over with the pale eyes that appeared almost white against the darkness of her skin. She opened her mouth as if to say something else, then repeated, “Nevertheless.”

“If you like,” said Segnbora. “That is, if you wish, please do. I would appreciate it.”

She found Storm difficult to read, either by underhearing or by more physical means: her reserve was a formidable barrier, and her moments of passion had been so intense that their exact nature was hard to ascertain.

Storm nodded, and beckoned to Segnbora to follow. She followed Storm to a room full of metal devices, and sat down on a bed while the other woman rummaged in a closet.

There was a squeak, and a Dragon no bigger than a small dog landed beside her. Segnbora tried to bespeak it, but it only looked at her inquisitively, then presented its head to be scratched. She scratched it.

“I am surrounded by Dragons,” she murmured.

“Lockheed likes you,” remarked Storm, returning with a bottle and a handful of small bandages.

“I’m flattered. Are Dragons always so little, on this world?”

“Almost always.” The corners of her eyes crinkled at what seemed to be a private joke. “Are they large on yours? Do they speak?”

As Storm dabbed a stinging liquid on to Segnbora’s wrist, Segnbora recognized the healer’s technique of distracting the patient during painful procedures by making conversation. The liquid went from stinging to burning, and Segnbora threw herself into the distraction, discoursing on Dragons and doors, on Lorn and Lang and even Herewiss.

But she was practiced at the art of paying attention to many things at once, and even with the associated pain, which was not the jolting thrill she’d experienced with Kylara but merely an unpleasant physical sensation, she began to focus on the light touch of Storm’s strong fingers, on the heat that arose from Storm’s body, and on her scent, which was composed in equal parts of leather, sweat, and a bitter green aroma like Karen’s tea.

“And the doors?” asked Storm. “Is this the first one you passed through?”

“No, though you’re the first to ask that question.” Segnbora glanced up at Storm’s cool face, and wondered if it was possible to disturb that calm. “The one I went through before this led to a woman named Karen Kasumi.”

When Segnbora got to the part about Karen’s couch, Lockheed made an embarrassed-sounding squeak and flew away. Segnbora laughed.

“I could stop there,” offered Segnbora. “Or skip that part.”

“If you want to tell me, tell me.”

Segnbora told her. Her underhearing picked up the movement of blood in Storm’s body, but also the rush of sympathy and understanding when Segnbora continued, to tell Storm of her own failure and of how Karen had given her hope.

“I once had the power to control the weather,” said Storm. “I was worshipped as a Goddess. I used my power to lead my team. I could feel the life in everything. I could fly.”

Segnbora felt a pang of bitter envy, even though Storm was speaking in the past tense. If she could channel her Flame, she too could feel the life in everything. But what if she had that gift, only to have it taken from her? Would that be worse than never having had it at all?

“And then I was struck by a weapon which took my power away. For a while I wanted to die. I thought I could no longer lead my team. But…” Storm shrugged. “I did not die. I do still lead them. Segnbora…”

Storm leaned in close. She had finished bandaging Segnbora’s cuts, and her scent was overlaid with the sharp tang of the liquid she’d used to clean them. “You must not believe that hope lies only in gaining power. What if you never do? Is your life then worthless? Is it worthless now?”

“It isn’t the life I wanted.” Segnbora was aware as she spoke how childish she sounded.

“It is the life that you have.” Storm took her hand. “I too believe in a Goddess. And I too believe that she does not make mistakes. Perhaps you were sent here to help me fight Spiral. But I think you were also sent so I could help you. And… perhaps…”

Segnbora laid her hand atop Storm’s. “Perhaps for something that doesn’t quite fall into the category of ‘help?’”

For the first time, Storm smiled. Then she pulled Segnbora in tight, careless of her new-bandaged cuts, and kissed her on the lips. The trailing ends of Storm’s hair fell across Segnbora’s shoulders, caressing them like a breath of wind.

Kylara had been pain and precision, and Karen had been gentleness and giving. Segnbora’s tiny wounds stung when Storm pushed her down on her back on the bed, but there was nothing either sadistic or carefully planned about the way that Storm pulled her clothes off and licked at the sweat that had beaded in the hollow of Segnbora’s throat. And Storm was a generous lover, intent on giving pleasure, but just as intent on taking her own. Like Segnbora, she was hard-muscled and scarred, in perfect control of her finely tuned body. They began on the bed, then stumbled to the wall, and ended on the hard cold floor.

Once Storm could have shared in mid-air, and maybe some day Segnbora would be able to truly feel what her loved felt without being distracted by the irritated tensing of each individual muscle fiber in her loved’s back. But landbound and uncomfortable as they were, tired and heartsore as they were, they enacted the love of the Goddess and the Lover, and both were the Goddess and both were the Lover, and it seemed not merely ungrateful but absurd to desire more.

Afterward Segnbora ignored the shimmer that appeared in the air in favor of sharing a bath with Storm. But after they emerged, warm and wet and contented, and got dressed, she noticed that her door in the air had been joined by another.

“What –“ she began.

A crowd of people burst through the other door, some distinctly odd-looking. Her hand dropped to Charriselm’s hilt. But Storm looked pleased to see them and they greeted her in a babble of overlapping and cheerful voices, so Segnbora decided that it was safe to go.

As she stepped through the other door with a wave of farewell, a man of steel – a metal elemental? – asked, “Who’s that?”

The last thing she heard from that world was Storm’s reply, “A friend.”

Once again, Segnbora was back in a hallway of gray stone with doors stretching into infinity. Her body ought to ache from so much sharing, but it didn’t. She was satisfied and sleepy, but not exhausted.

“Thank you,” she said aloud. “I still don’t understand why there were all those Dragons, but for Storm – for Karen – even for Kylara – thank you.”

Though one last door stood ahead of her, she knew that her journey through the doors was over. But as she passed it on her way to her bedroll, a glittering flash of movement caught her eye.

Framed by gray stone, a pair of Dragons soared together in a clear blue sky.
Anonymous (will be screened)
OpenID (will be screened if not validated)
Identity URL: 
Account name:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
HTML doesn't work in the subject.


If you are unable to use this captcha for any reason, please contact us by email at support@dreamwidth.org

Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags