Cleanliness Is Next To...
by Soren Nyrond

This was more like it - 'it'. In this context being Cordelia Chase's childhood dreams of being a brave and heroic princess, who rode out from court to slay dragons (small ones, at least) and defeat tyrants and so forth.

She'd had help, of course: chiefly an elf-maiden called Diamara, who was skilled in all those woodsy things that a well-brought-up Sunnydale girl knew native Americans did so well, and magical things that, according to the basic fantasy novels she'd read, elves and their kind did.

And, later, as she grew older, and "realised" (as much as an eight-to-nine year-old Cordelia Chase troubled to rationalise her dreams) that two was rather few for slaying really big monsters, or defeating armies, they were joined by Merithraea, who was one of Princess Cordelia's father's palace guards (though she was only the Princess's age, actually).

And now the three of them were riding off again, to look into a report that local girls were being changed in some way when they went into a particular bit of the forest.

Which, for an eight or nine year-old, would have been a fine dream.

And, actually, for grown-up Cordelia, apparently Number One on the quik-dial button for the Powers That Be, it would have been fine if that had been all that it had involved.

The problem was that this wasn't the first dream that Cordy had had recently which had featured Diamara and Merithraea. In the first Diamara had come to her room, high in one of the castle's towers, had stripped her naked, and had stimulated her to a thunderous climax - all right, she admitted to herself, to climaxes, plural. In the second they had all three ventured out into the woodland, but then a strange duplicate of Diamara, as though a primal, near-savage, avatar of the sweet (and, now, sensual) elf-maid, had appeared and forcefully subdued and seduced the Princess (even as Diamara herself was sweetly seducing Merithraea). And in the third Diamara had come to her again, had shown her Merithraea pleasuring herself and then, through her arcane arts, had brought her into Cordelia's bed-chamber, to satisfy the Princess's carnal appetites, even as the princess had then been inspired to attend to the elf-girl's own.

And Diamara, while to look at, was your "normal" elf-maiden-with-magical-powers (which might have been a hard thing to guess at for the average L.A. aspirant actress, but for someone who'd coped with vengeance demons, had a careful-or-he-goes-grrr-y boss, and had lost her heart to a half-demon before he'd killed himself saving a ship-load of magical refugees, was a cinch) just happened to have the voice of one of Cordy's best (if less than always so) friends, Willow Rosenberg.

So, it was hardly with a calm demeanour that Cordy let this latest of her "Princess" dreams proceed.

The village stood about two hours' ride from the castle - a pleasant place that looked very much like a film set, with a cast of stalwart villagers to occupy it. Of course, knowing what she did in the dream, Cordelia was not entirely surprised that there were few young women about.

"We keep them indoors," the headman said. "The young men go into the forest, to fetch the herbs and herd the swine. They don't seem to be affected the same way."

"What way is that ?" Cordelia asked.

"They spend hours there, and we have no idea why. When they come back, they lose concentration - they try to return to the forest at frequent intervals, but they won't talk about what they do there."

"Can you cast some sort of spell to help us find out what's going on ?" Cordelia asked of Diamara. Merithraea had already ridden a circuit of the village perimeter, and found nothing, and now, dismounted, she was systematically searching the ground along the route the village girls took to get to the eaves of the forest, about fifteen minutes' walk away.

"I can, but I'll need time to prepare," Diamara replied.

"Can you find her an empty hut to use ?" Cordelia asked the headman, "And then I should talk to one of the girls who's been affected."

""Whatever you say, your Highness," the headman replied.

When the three reconvened, to compare notes, to accept the headman's offer of refreshment, and, once he had gone and left them alone, to share a moment or two of mutual cuddling, the signs all pointed in the one direction.

"Either the danger is far worse than I'd thought," the Princess began, "or the girl I was let see was already comprehension-impaired. She showed all the animation of a stuffed toy, and giggled incessantly. The only thing she would say was something about a 'blue pool'."

"Which is what my spell revealed," Diamara said: "That there is something, in a blue pool, which is causing the problems." She looked round: "But something well within our powers to . " She paused for a moment, choosing her word. "To requite," she finished.

"Well," Merithraea said: "I may have found the way there - there is a clear path to a river crossing, and there are men there, filling water-jugs. But there is another trail, that branches off, that has been used recently, but from which I was, quietly but definitely, steered."

"So, was I 'steered' to a particular girl, I wonder ?" Princess Cordelia mused, as they rode out of the village. "Which way now, Meri ?"

Merithraea led the way down the main trail and then, at a broad oak, she turned to the left.

This was a less-used track, but it did not appear to be heading towards the river. Cordelia was about to ask when the guard held up her hand for silence, and reined her horse in, just short of a thick clump of bushes.

"Careful," she whispered. Round the corner, the side track rejoined the main one, but opposite it was a narrow gap in bushes, which was guarded by three young men, carrying sturdy crab-staffs.

Cordelia nodded, and raised her eyebrow at Diamara. It was an oft-used signal between the two, and Diamara nodded, briefly, and then concentrated. Thrice she made the mystic passes; thrice she murmured the arcane words. The men slumped to the ground, and as they did so, the three adventuresses rode across the road, and through the screen of bushes.

Beyond the path led down a slope and to a shaded pool, which, Cordelia noticed, might have been described as having a bluish tint to its water. What was more noticeable was that the water, instead of being calm and limpid, roiled and shifted, as though a wind were blowing across it, or a strong current were passing through its depths.

"We have to go in," Diamara said.

"Will we be safe ?"

Diamara shrugged. "Are adventures ever safe, my liege ? Do dreams exist to comfort us, or to test us, to reflect our easy, comfortable, awarenesses, or to reveal our hidden depths, our darker sides ?"

Cordelia could hear the uber-world breaking through here - Diamara was neither her dream-self nor a reflection of Willow now: this was the darker avatar she had met before, the voice of SuperEgo, dictating the parameters of the dream-world. She could wake - but that would leave the problems unsolved. Or she could go on, and .

"How do I know I can trust you ?" It wasn't what she would ever have asked Diamara the elf-girl, but Diamara as SuperEgo, she thought, could be expected to cope.

"Why should you doubt that you can ?" Diamara replied (in Willow's exact slightly-disappointed and miffed-by-it tones). "Anyway, my liege-lady, when ever did you hold back from a challenge ?"

It made a kind of sense - the dreams had in part served to embolden the younger Cordelia to face the traumas of her first-school years, since those problems were never quite as daunting as facing a dragon or a cockatrice or a wild pegasus.

So she removed her clothes and, naked, stepped into the water. It was warm, like a tropical bath, and it swirled round her, sensually embracing her and gently lifting her weight from her.

She wondered what was happening, and then the voices came to her.

Time washed away, like a triviality - Princess Cordelia was (once again, as when she had been a child) being taught about her dream-world.

They were nymphs. This pool had become their home. But Men had come, and had used them, seeking to bind their faery spirits to the carnal drives of corporeal lusting. They had fought back, in the way they knew best, and the men, unable to bear the demands which (so they were told) their hungers had initiated, had retreated and left the nymph-pool alone. Then the girls had come, and the nymphs had (erroneously) assumed them men also, and had drained several of them. Then they had 'played' with the next ones, as they had done in ages long gone. But this, too, had seemed unacceptable - they had not been aware of the 'rules'.

Now they wanted a truce - they wanted protection from the men, and in return they would teach the girls all about the nymphaic arts.

I can do that, Cordelia told them: I can decree that the men must no longer come here. I am a princess: they must obey me.

Then, the nymphs replied, let us thank you in the way we know best.

Cordelia felt herself lifted up and swept into the deeper part of the pool. There the waters swirled about her shoulders and lapped down, currents swooping past her breasts, teasing her nipples into full awakeness and then further, into the start of their sensual engorgement.

Then more of the currents swirled against her lower down. She parted her legs in response to the unspoken desires of the nymphs, and they responded to her.

She was being lovingly caressed, all over her molten core, stroked and gentled, and suckled and sweetened, and at the same time, she was being stretched beyond anything she could have imagined (although never beyond what she could bear), opened up and up, entered deeper and deeper, given more and more and more stimulation, until sensations washed through her, throughout her, in endless waves which rose and rose and rose.

Dimly she was aware that Diamara had joined her in the water and that she, too, was being pleasured, by another of the creatures. For a moment the waters swept them together and they embraced and kissed. Diamara gasped, and Cordelia guessed that her friend - who had obviously known what spirit lurked in the pool - had been slightly readier than she to accept the nymphs' attentions.

Merithraea's voice rang out and Cordelia was pleased in herself that her other friend was also finding the nymphs' love to her liking.

Suddenly all three of them were together, and could hug and kiss, while the nymphs stimulated them, deftly and with loving precision. Their heart-beats accelerated and they gasped as one as their climaxes overtook them. But they were weightless in water - here there was no lying back, to take one's ease. As soon as their quivering orgasms had fallen to sensual flutterings, the gentle nymphs were subtly but seductively restoking the fires within, ready to take them on a further voyage of ecstacy.

Or, Cordelia realised, voyages: these nymphs had waited a very long time for someone to whom they could pay their proper homage, on whom they could practice their long-accumulated arts.

And she, and they, she knew, would henceforth come to each other's call, bound by a bond blood-deep and eros-strong, forever and eternally, as it had been meant to be.