Epilogue: Loose Ends
Taylor was dead. My heart was broken. She’d been so sweet, such an innocent even in her most domme moments, still as intent on pleasure, hers and ours, as ever. It hadn’t really been her choice to go where she went, met the end she met, she’d been controlled into agreeing to it, and I’d helped Sati do that to her. We all had, maybe, but that didn’t ease the loss—I felt directly responsible, and I wasn’t the only one. While tears flowed freely from every one of us, Kelsey and Stu, the two people Taylor had owned most thoroughly, were sobbing uncontrollably.
“Who was she?” Mariano asked, blind and otherwise frozen, bleeding.
“Taylor,” Stu gasped.
“Your master bought her and used her, then killed her,” Callie said.
“I don’t know where I am,” Mariano said, “or how I got here, or anything. I can’t remember anything.” His throat was constricted, saliva and phlegm and seeping blood, and he spat again, the pinkish tinge of his expectorate darker.
“You’re dying,” I said, and I could feel it. But there was more going on inside Mariano ... he had an active ward, and while it had kept him alive when everyone else (excepting me ... was that Sati’s doing or had my exits just been fortuitously timed?) in that house died, his ward was failing. But I could feel it, and feeling it helped me explore it, and exploring it might help me understand it, strengthen it.
“Mariano has a ward,” I said. “Can anyone else feel it?” And while the women were feeling for it, I knew he was frozen and blind and having trouble breathing from the same curare-like spell that had afflicted me. And that much I knew how to dispel, so I did.
“Your sight and movement will start coming back,” I said. “Your breathing should ease, but I don’t know what’s melting you inside. We’ll try to solve that, but in the meantime, please try not to move.”
Mariano groaned. The women were healing him, trying to heal him, and while it helped, whatever was killing him was not stopped, was barely slowed. Understanding his failing ward was the key, and I put myself into it, went inside him, feeling what he felt, feeling what was happening, and it was bad.
“It was just like this with Taylor,” Dani said, and Kelsey sobbed afresh, “we were healing her, trying to heal her, but it didn’t help.”
“You have a ward,” I said to Mariano. “It’s the only reason you’re still alive, but it’s failing. Tell me about it, we might be able to strengthen it, hopefully dispel whatever is killing you.”
“Our teacher blessed me, at the Hidalgo sanctuary,” Mariano said.
“I don’t know that place,” I said. “What sort of blessing?”
“To keep us safe from many things as we protected the sanctuary,” he said. “But when the dark man and his thralls found me in Tepoztlán, it was no help.”
“How did your teacher give this blessing?”
“As we drank iztāc octli. Pulque.”
“What is pulque?”
“A drink sacred to my people.”
“What is it made from?”
“Metl. Maguey. Agave. Century Plant. Aguamiel.”
“Agave? Like tequila?”
“Yes, but different species, from a different part of the plant.”
I thought about that while Mariano groaned. Focus. The man was dying. We had good tequila here, made from blue agave. With limeade and a few drops of Tabasco, it could be so good that in my former life it had sung to me of stupor more than once. My best friend’s ultimate flu cure had been tequila, lemon juice, and garlic.
“Bring tequila, lemon juice, garlic, and hot sauce,” I said to Stu, and he rose to get some.
Mariano coughed, blood on his lips, groaned.
“What happened after the dark man found you?” I asked.
“I don’t remember anything else until I woke and heard you and called out to you and you brought me here,” he said. “I can see again, thank you for saving me. Your friends are very beautiful despite their tears. Taylor was fortunate to know you.”
“We were fortunate to know Taylor,” Callie said softly. She’d come to kneel beside me, just as she had with Taylor. It helped to have her close. She’d taken Mariano’s hands in her own, Jess’ hands on Mariano’s forehead, soothing.
“Thank you, love,” I whispered.
“You need to take her back to that house,” Mariano said. “Let her spirit leave from her place of torment, let your love help her spirit come to peace there.” He coughed again, groaned more deeply.
My focus was back inside Mariano, gathering his tattered ward. Stu returned, with a glass. The hot sauce was from Xalisco.
“Valentina,” Mariano said. “Bueno.”
I smashed a garlic clove in the glass and mixed Mariano a drink. “Sip,” I said. “I doubt it will cure you, but I want to see what it does, how it affects your ward, if at all.”
Mariano spat, sipped, made a face. Blood probably didn’t improve the flavor, which I imagine was pretty close to straight lemon juice. But he had another sip, then another, then he groaned. I can only imagine the impact of citric acid and capsicum on a dissolving esophagus.
But inside, there was change.
The lemon juice and the hot sauce might’ve been a mistake, the garlic wasn’t, but magic was happening with the tequila. An attenuated, abortive magic, but it was there and I followed it, reaching for the glass, drinking down everything but the garlic.
“Smash another garlic clove in the glass,” I said to no one in particular, “then more tequila.” Really, at that point, deep inside Mariano, inside his thoughts, feelings, memories, pain, sharing them with all the women here, I had no eyesight myself, like my own personal Fantastic Voyage.
And as much as that might sound like a recipe for a disastrous downward spiral, Stu and Callie made it happen, Mariano sipped more, and this time his response was clearer. This wouldn’t cure him, but I could feel it interact with his ward.
“I can feel it,” Callie said, and I reached for her.
“I feel it,” Dani said, came to my other side, took my hand.
And, feeling it, exploring it, traveling with it as it changed, flowing inside Mariano, I could feel what else was needed.
Kelsey sobbing, holding Stu, Mariano’s hands still in Callie’s.
Pulque was made from the sap, the blood of the agave. Mariano’s blood was flowing. Mayahuel, the goddess of agave, a plant so important that it had its own goddess. The sap, aguamiel, was thought to be her blood. Agave is related to yucca, asparagus, and aloe.
Kelsey rose, pulled Stu up with her. “We need asparagus and aloe vera,” she said to him, and they ran to the greenhouse.
Tlazolteotl, Aztec goddess of love and sexuality, eater of sins and certain illnesses, introduced the temazcal, the sweat lodge, for healing.
“We need to go back,” I said. “We’ll bring Taylor and Mariano. We can heal him there and say goodbye to Taylor. We’ll need fresh herbs or oils: Rosemary, basil, sage, mint, oregano, jasmine.”
“We need to bring things that were precious to her,” Callie said.
Dani rose. “I’ll get everything,” she said, and ran to the house.
“We have a plan,” I said to Mariano. “I don’t know where we can get pulque, but tequila or mezcal might work, especially if we try a couple more things. We’re going to the basement of the house where you and Taylor were imprisoned, and with the house on fire, it’ll be hot. We’re going to try drawing this spell from you before the house burns down.”
“Sati and Ingrid might be there,” Callie said, warning.
“If they are, they’ll be upstairs with the grimoire,” I said. “I don’t know if they’ll be able to take down its magical protections, I know I thought it was going to take a while.”
“I want to be Tlazolteotl,” Jess said, which surprised me. She was already unbuttoning Mariano’s shirt.
Kelsey and Stu returned with fresh-cut asparagus and aloe vera. As Jess removed Mariano’s shirt, Kelsey rubbed aloe onto his chest.
“Crush the asparagus in your hand,” I told Stu, “and drip the juice into Mariano’s mouth.” Stu did so while I tried to feel what effect it might be having on Mariano as he swallowed, and it did seem to be interacting with his ward, not as much as the tequila, but some. “Put more of the juice into his glass.”
Jess was removing Mariano’s pants.
Dani returned with herbs, two dropper bottles, and a few items from the suite that had been Taylor’s: heels, several crystals and a small egg-shaped stone, each attached to a slender chain, a blindfold, a ball gag, a silicone dildo. Mariano noticed even as he shifted to help Jess remove his pants.
“Some of you were fortunate indeed to know your friend Taylor, I can see.” And he smiled, and coughed, and groaned.
“Hold that thought,” Jess said, coming back up to remove his boxers, kissing him on the lips.
“Stu, carry Taylor,” I said. “Callie, lead me please, I can’t see. Let’s go.” Then Callie and I opened a portal to the basement room where Taylor had been confined. It was hot and a little smoky, and there was noise from upstairs, but the house was well-built and the basement wasn’t in flames yet. Jess and Kelsey helped support Mariano, who was now nude.
“We’ll need hot water,” I said. “There should be a bathroom with a sink. Stu, lay Taylor on the table,” and he did. Dani laid Taylor’s paraphernalia on the table next to her.
“We have two rituals,” Callie said when she’d returned with water. “We’ll say goodbye to Taylor while we try to dispel whatever evil has been done to Mariano.”
Kelsey spoke first, tears still flowing. “Taylor, I love you, I miss you, I can’t believe you crossed over, it was too soon, much too soon. I know you’re with us now, and I want you to know how much we loved having you in our lives, how much I loved having you in my life.” And then we all listened, to hear what Taylor might say in reply. “Oh Taylor,” Kelsey said, her eyes shining.
Mariano was lying on the floor, Jess cross-legged on the floor with him, his cock in her talented hand, one of her feet compressing his balls, and of course he was getting hard. Her panties were off, her skirt hiked up.
Jess: “Taylor, in your memory I’m going to make this man come so hard it’ll be almost like it was you, you were so amazing at making all of us come. And whenever he comes, it’ll draw out some of the evil that was put inside him in this cursed place, where it will stay even as this place is cleansed by fire, and by your loving spirit.”
Kelsey brought Taylor’s dildo and began teasing Mariano’s ass with it. Callie, hair in glossy braids, was walking a circle around the edge of the room, splashing hot water on the walls and the floor, while Dani, just behind her, plucked herbs and laid them in that water. The water was already hot, and high on the walls where it was hottest, that water was steaming. We heard a crash from upstairs. Mariano was making the same kind of strangled gasping noises I knew well from every time Jess had so expertly drawn them from me. Then she stopped, released his cock, let it spasm in the air.
Dani: “With these fragrant herbs, we cleanse this place of all the evil done here, all the hurt done to Taylor, let her journey to the other side be calm and peaceful, filled with our love just as she filled us with hers. Taylor, we love you.”
Stu: “Taylor, I love you. I can’t believe how much I love you, how much you made me love everything you do, I will always love you.”
Me: “Taylor, I’m so sorry. I wish I’d known, I wish any of us had known. I love you, I know you’re in a good place now, I wish you could be with us now and always.” And fuck if I didn’t feel her lips on my cheek and then on the tip of my cock even through my pants, just a little goodbye kiss, then another crash from upstairs and the sound of breaking glass and a cry from the direction of the room where the grimoire was, which meant Sati and Ingrid had left the house, but with or without the grimoire I couldn’t know.
Jess had Mariano at the edge again, released his engorged cock to wave turgid in the heating air, streaming precum, put her hand behind his neck to raise his head, offered him more of the drink we’d made for him, tequila, garlic, asparagus juice, and between gasps he took a bigger drink than any he’d taken before, and I could feel it working inside him.
Callie: “Taylor, you were such a good friend to me. Generous, thoughtful, loving, always helping us find our better selves. I admire you so much, I wanted so much for you, you are so beautiful, inside and out, you brightened all our lives and brought us all closer. Goddess bless you.” She’d begun removing her clothing, was down to just bra and panties, and the other women, excepting Jess who’d been busy with Mariano, were doing the same.
Mariano’s voice was shaky as he said “Taylor, I didn’t know you, but you know a person’s character by the friends they keep, and you have some of the truest, most beautiful friends. You were blessed to have them, as I’m sure they were blessed to have you.” And he inhaled deeply and coughed and spat saliva tinged red.
The herbs Dani had been laying down were perfuming the room, and between that and the heat and the steam from the water Callie spread, we were all dripping sweat. Callie came close, chanting into Mariano’s ears, a strange inflection in her voice:
I know the running streams,the nine adders they enclose.May all the weeds spring up as herbs,the seas slip apart, all salt water,while this poison is blown from you.
“Taylor wants you in me,” Kelsey whispered to Stu.
“I’m not going to stop this time,” Jess said to Mariano, “when you’re about to come, I will press my finger into your perineum and I will ruin your orgasm while I keep going and you have no choice but to approach another release and then I will slap your cock again and again until you can’t believe how much of your mind you’re losing to shock and pleasure, and all the evil that dark man put into you is going to fill your cock and then you are going to cum so hard that your stream is going to hit the wall over there, and all that evil magic will leave you.”
And fuck if hearing my beautiful tiny Jess talk like that while I felt what her words did to Mariano from inside him wasn’t going to make me jizz in my pants, but right then I felt Callie’s legs against my back, and she leaned over me and I could’ve seen her lovely naked pointed breasts from below if my eyes were working while she unbuttoned my shirt, put her hands on my chest, pushed me onto my back between her long lithe legs. Then Dani was there on the floor with me as my sightless eyes gazed up at Callie towering so tall over me, and Dani was removing my pants and freeing my cock and taking me into her talented mouth, and then Callie was squatting just above my face, one hand stroking and squeezing Dani’s ass while the other stroked, teased Dani’s naked mound, long slender fingers playing inside and outside her just as my lips and tongue played Callie’s wonderful pussy until what Dani was doing completely put me out of my mind just as Jess was putting Mariano out of his mind just as Stu deep inside Kelsey was putting both of them out of their minds, and I was going to make Callie come and she was going to make Dani come and Dani was going to make me come and Stu and Kelsey were going to make each other come and Jess was going to make Mariano come and the only person who wasn’t going to get to come was Jess, but I could do something about that even from all the way over here, just as I’d made her do it before and her desire rose with everyone else’s just as the temperature rose just as the steam and the scent of fresh healing herbs filled the room, pushing back against the incoming smoke, my extrasense tapping into the energy of the flames surrounding the room, feeding Jess as I could hear her slapping Mariano’s hard, straining, dripping cock just as she’d told him she would, winding him up higher and tighter, feeding all of us as we wound up with him, feeding back into Jess and Mariano as she exorcised his poison, the sounds of those slaps reverberating through me, through all of us, while his gasps and moans rose and I could feel him approach the edge just as I was approaching it, just as all of us were, and when it happened to all of us including Jess, as profound a climax as I’d experienced with all these wonderful people, it was like Taylor was right there with us.
We were surrounded by flames. Flames brought my conscious mind back, gone nearly four months. I don’t know how that could be but it was, I knew that now, and Callie had already known. She was weeping, her tears falling onto my already wet stomach.
“Wow, just ... wow,” Dani said.
“Bob, Bob, I’m so sorry,” Callie said, “I’ve been so selfish. I love you. I don’t want to lose you.”
“I love you, Callie,” I said. “I don’t want to lose you, either.”
“He’s baaaaaack,” Jess said from across the room.
I nodded. “I’m back.”
Mariano was healing. Jess, stroking his belly, his legs, his arms, smoothing his hair as his breath slowed, said “you’re back, too.”
“I still need pulque,” he said to her, smiling, breathing hard. “Is it too soon to say I love you?”
“I don’t know,” Jess replied. “But if there’s anything Taylor taught me, that Callie and Bob taught me, it’s when our hearts are open, there’s room in them to love more than one person.”
“We need to go,” I said. “This place is about to come down. Last goodbyes for Taylor.”
And we each of us kissed her gently, hugged and kissed each other, left her there on the table where she’d experienced such terror and torment and then such love with us, we picked up our clothes and stepped through the portal, but not to Newberry ... this portal was to the cars we’d parked at the trailhead two miles away. We’d beaten Sati and Ingrid there by 10 minutes, and I had keys to all three and we got in and drove all three away. Sati must’ve left Lashe in a tent at our campsite. Back on paved roads a few minutes later, I heard sirens.
“Loose ends,” I said.
There was a song in my head, for the first time in months, and I sang a few lines for Callie and Dani, who were in the Kia with me, and for Taylor. Callie leaned over from the seat next to me, her head resting against my shoulder, her right hand and wrist on my heart, while Dani, behind her, leaned over to put a hand on the back of my neck and another on Callie’s head.
I don’t know why I get to hold you, but I doI don’t know why I get to miss you, but I doI never coulda seen it comin’, I still can’t believe it’s trueI don’t know why I get to love you, but I do
We sighed together, Callie’s finger drawing doodles on my leg. But inside me, there was another song, one I had no idea what to do about.
Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, downAnd they all led me straight back home to you