by Soren Nyrond

Cordelia sat up, stark, clutching the bed-sheets to her in the LA night, her heart slowly recovering its accustomed beat from the frenzied tarantelle it had been playing, as she wondered to what she had been brought.

That she had the dreams, she had come to accept. That their content was . frank and uninhibited . that was something else with which she was, little by little, coming to terms. At least, as yet, their content had not insinuated itself into her daily life. But that she could, even in her dream-self, have acted in such a manner, arguably taking the initiative.

In the dreams she was a Princess - she couldn't remember them starting, but she had been very young. They had fulfilled some need in her and buoyed her up when she felt that the World was too large and frightening for her juvenile self. Then they had faded away, until now, when they had come back with a definite erotic (almost pervy) edge.

In this dream she had been at her parents' castle (though, as usual, she had no direct recall of them - they were just There, in the Background); when they died she would inherit the Kingdom, until then they ruled wisely and well, and she didn't have to worry about things like that, but could go on adventures.

Except that, every now and again, there were functions of state - balls, mostly, like the ones in the cartoons - which as Heir she was obliged to attend. It meant she got to wear lovely Princess-type gowns - so did her best friend, Diamara, the elf-girl who was her constant companion on her adventures (though she usually faded into the background at the balls).

She had no idea what this particular ball was in aid of - in her dream she was fixed on the idea that Tiarogue would be there. It was odd - when she had been young, there had only been Diamara who had had a name as such: the other characters had simply been ciphers (perhaps they had had names inside the dreams, but nothing that stuck with them). Merithraea (who was in the castle guard) had come later, almost as the child-dreams had been ending, when Cordy had wanted to have more than just the one friend in the dream-world. Now, by some means, Tiarogue had come along, and she knew that this was a real name even if she had yet to meet the character, yet to find out where Tiarogue fitted in to her world of Princess Cordelia.

Tiarogue was a princess herself, from another nation. But she had done openly what Princess Cordelia did in secret - she had ridden off from her palace to adventure and lead armies and slay evil things and behave exactly as she wanted. And her travels had brought her to Cordelia's father's kingdom, and her reputation was frighteningly awesome.

So the ball was an important affair - Cordelia's family wanting to impress this wild (yet powerful) stranger. Which meant that Cordy's ball-gown was magnificent, a bluish-crimson confection, tiered in satins and silks, set with sparkling stones, and cut to complement her figure.

As to what Tiarogue would wear, speculation among the castle-people was rife. Merithraea, who was Princess Cordelia's special friend among them, said half of them were imagining black silk and dwarf-steel ornaments, and the other half were talking of raw wolfskins and giant leather boots right up her thighs.

Then the moment came, and Cordelia and Merithraea walked into the ballroom, and met Tiarogue.

The realisation almost brought the real-world Cordelia back to her senses. The dream Cordy - the princess - had no idea who Tiarogue was. How could she have, when her entire nation had, until the very "recentest" time in the dream-world, been a total mystery.

But to waking Cordelia, Tiarogue was as familiar as . well, as the last time she and Angel had visited the Pen. She'd forgotten now whether it was the Sunnydale murder, or the havoc she'd wreaked in L.A., or the charges that Wolfram and Hart had conjured up as revenge for betraying them, that had actually put her there, but the face - and the body - of Faith were things Cordelia Chase would never forget.

And that body was almost as well displayed in her role as Tiarogue as it had been as Faith Spencer, rogue Slayer. Then she had worn cropped t-shirts that left her arms free for Slaying, and tight leather trousers that protected her legs without getting in the way (and which gave off a firmly animal scent as her body warmed them). Here, she was dressed in a frou-frou lace gown, which, while it covered her legs, was cut low fore and aft across her shoulders. Her bearing was, at the same time, both imperious and barbarian. She surveyed the ballroom much as Cordelia imagined she would have a battlefield - or an LA alleyway replete with vampire opponents to dust.

Princess Cordelia was escorted over, to be introduced to her peer, but Tiarogue appeared utterly uninterested. On the other hand her shapely body, half-exposed as it was, piqued Cordy's interest. Not least because of the potential for a little sensual fun which it offered. Except that Cordy was supposed to be on her best behaviour, as befitted a Crown Princess, and wrestling the guest of honour to the floor, stripping her, and ravishing her would probably not constitute an acceptable version of 'best behaviour'.

On the other hand, she was a princess, and Cordelia, and she was not there to be ignored .

Diamara and Merithraea joined Cordelia and they engaged in "innocent chatter", mostly discussing how the gown, allowed a half-inch more freedom, would like as not have laid Princess Tiarogue's nipples to view. That led on to debate as to the potential size, shape, and firmness of said nipples and whether she (Tiarogue, that was, as opposed to Cordelia) would prefer to have them licked, sucked or mock-bitten.

Then there was the question of what, if any, clothes she - Tiarogue again - had on under the dress. Diamara's grass-green elfin gown left no illusions - all that was under there was naked elf-maid: there was no room for anything more. As for Merithraea (for once out of her uniform and in a shimmering blue gown) and Princess Cordelia herself, ever since certain incidents with a former tutor the King had provided for them, they had not troubled with undergarments, and though no-one had particularly noticed (except themselves), they had been ready to hint, subtly, that their erstwhile pedagogue had said that such dishabille was to be recommended for reasons of personal hygiene. Also how they felt that it brought into sharp focus their lessons on courtly behaviour and deportment.

All of which discussion did little except take up time and fuel the lusts which (nowadays) smouldered constantly, not only in Princess Cordelia's breast (or, to be accurate, breasts and especially nipples) but also in other, more personal, locations somewhat southward. Diamara (or the grown-up Diamara of these new dreams, the one who looked so disturbingly like Willow Rosenberg) was perennially horny, and young Merithraea (blonde and shapely) had, it seemed, concluded that the sooner she caught up with her princess and the elf-maid, in the carnal appetites stakes, Sapphic ecstacy division, the better.

So all three of them were just getting more and more . reckless in the satisfying-hungers field. And the one of them (afterwards, none would own up to responsibility, but also none actually accused one of the other two as opposed to the other) uttered the fateful phrase "I dare you".

Rationally, the Cordelia Chase that was used to daylight and mundane routine (like ducking through sewers to stake weird hybrid snake/spider demon-things) knew that Princesses didn't take dares. But the one that ran things at night and coped with her unconscious was less convinced. And when she (or it) was also "aware" that dreams weren't real, and that, therefore, what happened in them was (presumably) not something on which issues of blame rested (so long as the dreams weren't carried into real life) it was not a large step to say "Okay, in this dream, this Princess can play the Dare Game")

So she did nothing as Diamara slipped a knife from her sleeve and deftly slit the laces of Tiargoue's dress, and then she stood on the back of the dress, just as the other princess took a step forward.

Obedient to the laws, if not of physics then of its adjacent cousins, not to mention of dramatic irony, karmic bounce, and hentai expectations, the dress surrendered its role and slithered downwards, leaving Tiarogue naked to the waist (where the dress took a brief rest, poised on her hips). Of course, the dereliction of her clothing did not go unnoticed to Tiarogue, who turned to seek the cause, thereby giving Cordelia and both her friends a clear and unfettered view of the tits and nipples about which they had been speculating. And they were breasts of goodly size and excellent firmness, supporting pert nipples which were already cresting up at the sudden draught to which they were being exposed.

Around them, music and dance had stuttered to a halt, but Cordy was totally unconcerned with that. Rather, there were thoughts running through her head that had to do with those nipples and the pleasurable sensations that seeing them was generating in her. She licked her lips, and caught a glimpse, from the corner of her eye, of Merithraea doing likewise.

"What are you -- !?" Presumably Tiarogue had had in mind to add some more to her questions, but Cordy didn't really give her the chance, stepping forward and crushing the half-nude barbarian princess to her, then spearing her tongue through Tiarogue's slightly-open lips and proceeding to ravish her mouth.

Halfway through, Tiarogue stopped fighting. Eventually Cordy let her go. Not that that meant that Tiarogue was free: Merithraea gave the barbarian only thirty seconds' breathing time, before she stepped up for a bout of lip-crushing and tongue-wrestling.

What was evident was that Tiarogue's nipples were paying distinct attention, and Cordy and Diamara reciprocated by gently cupping Tiargoue's breasts and kissing and sucking at the pert pink nipples that rose attentively.

Then, as Merithraea let Tiarogue go, Cordy and Diamara stripped away her gown completely, as Merithraea gently turned the princess to face her Princess again.

With Diamara's deft help, it took Cordy only seconds to slip out of her dress, and then she and Tiarogue were flesh-to flesh, kissing and caressing. And Diamara and Merithraea were scant seconds behind, divesting each other of their ball attire, and making a couch of the four dresses, onto which they guided the princesses, before laying down with them.

It probably, Princess Cordelia admitted in her mind, was not the sort of reception her father had had in mind, but it certainly seemed to be making Tiarogue feel welcomed.