The Land of Teuhyo
(Inspired by Dungeons and Dragons)
Chapter 8: The Woman
Content warning: this chapter contains descriptions of gender dysphoria
Vulcan pushed open the door ever so slowly, peering into the next room. From the glint of white hair, he recognized Iah, where she sat at the table, across from a short woman with dark red hair.
“We’re sorry to be a bother…” Iah kept her head down, staring at the table. Nedjem sat beside her, his skirt riding up around his waist.
“You aren’t any bother at all!” Misha said with a bright, beaming smile. “Are you from Orlaine? I haven’t seen you here before, and I know every face~”
“We’re from…outta town.” Aeron admitted.
“Oh? Do tell. Where are you all coming from?” Misha leaned forward, her hands clasped together.
The group exchanged glances, realizing even they didn’t know this about each other.
“I’m coming from the College of Concordia.” Bedivere piped up, obviously proud and happy.
As soon as she said the word college, however, Misha tensed up and her bright smile fell. “Oh. Them.”
“Are you okay?” Iah asked.
“I…” Misha huffed. “Well, we don’t cherish the College’s involvement in our operations.”
“Have others from the College been bothering you? Last Grandpa told me, I’m the only one they sent.”
“Not to Orlaine specifically.” Misha glared at her lap. “But overall. They don’t seem to like our lady very much.”
Bedivere pursed her lips. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“I’m from Duamutef!” Iah interjected. “I mean, my mom was! My dad-”
“Oh, yes I noticed.” Misha, her smile returning, brushed Iah’s hair behind her ear. “I see half-Elves more and more often these days.”
Iah blushed. “Yeah…sorry about my ears.”
“Why apologize? I think their adorable!” Misha pinched the pointy tip of Iah’s small ear. “Like little pink leaves~”
“Oh…” Iah didn’t know how exactly to react, but the comment was not exactly unwelcome. “I’ve…never heard someone say that before.”
“Many do not have the ability to see the beauty in the strange.” Misha said, sitting back and shifting her gaze to Nedjem. “Fortunately, I do~”
He met her gaze.
“And where do you come from?”
Nedjem thought for a long while. “…Concordia.”
“Also the col-”
“No.” He cut her off, a bit forcefully, then laughed as if to play off his outburst. “No…we didn’t have the money for tuition.”
Misha nodded, smiling even more it seemed. “Ah. Familiar with the streets then?”
“Very. Lived there all my life.” Nedjem said, his eyes fading as he seemed to retreat into his own mind. “My mom worked as a…comfort woman to pay the bills.”
“Is that where you got your…” Misha looked him over with a sympathetic eye “…current obsession?”
Nedjem seemed to snap back into character. “Yes, actually.” He smiled. “She’d bring men home to dress me up like a little girl~”
Iah looked away, pursing her lips at the comment, while Bedivere looked over at him with a scowl and tried to make a “cut it out” motion with her hand.
Misha shook her head. “To play with the mind and convince the body it is mutilated…You were touched by demons, my poor boy.” She broke off at a whimpering noise and saw that Iah was biting her lip.
“Iah?” Nedjem touched her arm and she flinched, pulling away. “Are you alright?”
She startled, as if out of a trance. “I…yes. Sorry…I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright my sweet, it’s perfectly okay to cry at such atrocities.” Misha assured her. “Let us change the topic. And you, big fellow: where did you come from?”
Everyone looked at Aeron, who looked up in surprise and almost shrank under everyone’s gazes.
“Uh…” He gulped. “I’m…from…the swamp.”
“A swamp…?” Misha blinked.
“My, uh…my momma and I used to…she had a rest stop. In the swamp.”
“I’ve heard that’s common for Ogres.”’ Misha nodded.
“I’m an Orc.”
“Sorry, common for Orcs.”
“Maybe…Momma was human though…”
The table fell silent, the air so thick you couldn’t even cut it with a knife.
“How interesting.” Misha crooned. “How did all you colorful characters come to be in our humble village?”
“Well, we were originally running with a caravan.” Nedjem said. “We stopped at the Tab and Verne and met Iah there.”
“Verne…” Misha raised a brow. “That name sounds familiar.”
“Haha, it does, funny coincidence.” Bedivere said, her voice rising in pitch.
“I mean it’s not much of a coincidence. The owner of the place is Tom Verne’s brother.” Nedjem flinched as he kept talking, despite how hard Bedivere was pressing her shoe into his foot.
“You stopped at their inn…?” Misha looked wary.
“Well, it was a rest stop.” Aeron piped up. “We were there to get snacks and then we was gonna be off…”
“But then there was a bar fight.” Iah said. “It’s a long story but-OW!” The table practically shook as Bedivere reached her foot over Nedjem and kicked Iah in the shin.
Misha chuckled a bit. “Your friend seems upset there. Are you okay, Professor?”
“I’m not a Professor yet.” Bedivere grumbled. “I was…there. Iah said she wanted to travel and I needed a ride. We knew each other from before.”
Iah looked confused.
“From Duamutef.” Bedivere clarified. “You might not know the history, Dwarves and Dark Elves have been cohabitating down there for years. We…” She looked at Iah for help. “We were childhood friends. Right Iah?”
“Um…yeah?” Iah looked a bit worried.
“Right.” Bedivere crossed her arms, looking quite satisfied. “So we tagged along.”
“So where’s your caravan now?”
Bedivere no longer looked satisfied. “They…couldn’t come. They…died.”
“How did they die?”
Bedivere was sweating bullets, her brow as shiny as the marble floor.
“It was a Troglodyte!” Iah screamed.
The whole table blinked in unison.
“A…what now?” Aeron spoke first.
“They’re big, fleshy frog monsters!” Iah held up her hands in a claw motion. “We were going through the forest, and it came out of the woods and tried to eat us! That’s where they live, you see!”
In Bedivere’s mind, she knew this story was in no way believable, but Misha looked interested, almost concerned. “I know some people have spotted them along the outskirts but they mostly keep to themselves.”
“I guess we got too close.” Iah said. “Because it came running out of the trees! I fell off the wagon and Aeron got hit in the face with it’s gross spittle!”
“I can take a look at that.” Misha quickly began to stand.
“I-Iah already healed it!” Aeron waved his hands. “That’s very kind ‘ah you to offer though.”
Misha sat back down slowly, still looking pale. “You all had quite the adventure to get here then. And what about your friend?”
They all paused. “…Friend?” Iah said.
“The pink one staring at us through the door.”
Iah turned pale. “Uh…”
Misha walked over and yanked the door open, sending Vulcan tumbling onto the ground. “This friend. You didn’t realize I could see you, did you?”
“Fuck you, lady.” Vulcan grumbled.
“Hey! Vulcan, that’s mean!” Iah shouted.
Vulcan stuck out his tongue at her, which Iah couldn’t see because of the bandana covering his face. He stood and brushed himself off, then slunk off to a chair in the corner and began playing with his knives.
“You mentioned you are healers?” Misha continued.
“I am.” Nedjem spoke up. “And Iah. Bedivere I believe…” He looked at her.
“I don’t have healing magic per se, but I can brew a mean potion and a good mug of ale to numb the pain!” Bedivere gave a wink and a finger gun to prove her point.
Misha smiled. “We could actually use some healers around here. Temporarily, of course, but it seems as though there is a…sickness going around.”
“You got that right.” Bedivere murmured.
“We’d be delighted to help!” Nedjem spoke up. “Perhaps being in this holy place will cleanse us of our sins~”
Iah blushed and looked away.
They led most of them back into the common room (except Vulcan; after the stunt he pulled Misha made him sit outside). It was populated by monks, many of them young men but some nearing middle age. They all took notice of Nedjem’s dress.
“So much attention~” He fanned himself noticeably and fluttered his eyelashes. “Whatever shall I do with all these eyes on me?”
A familiar monk, Eramil, began to stand when Misha put a hand on Nedjem’s back.
“I know it is a challenge, knowing what you’ve gone through, but please refrain from speaking such comments to the initiates. It’s very inappropriate.”
“My apologies.” Nedjem bowed. “However…I will need help getting out of this dress~”
“I can-” Iah was about to say, but Eramil rushed over before she could.
“I will take you to the dressing room.” He said excitedly. “Let me show you.”
“Thank you.” Nedjem smiled, and Iah watched them go, her heart sinking.
“Aeron, Initiate Kristoff will give you your clothing.” Misha clasped. “As for us ladies, follow me!” She began to lead them away.
“Um…” Iah looked around anxiously. “Where are we going?”
“We’re going to my quarters. We don’t have a ladies wing yet, as I’m the only nun, so we can bathe in change in my room.”
“Bathe? Change? Like…together?”
“Of course. We’re all women, we all have the same bodies.”
Iah went white as a sheet and began to slow down, her shoes dragging across the wooden floor.
“Iah?” Bedivere said. “Are you okay?”
Iah hesitated. “I…yeah, I just-”
“Oh dear, are you alright?” Misha rushed to her. “You’re sweating, you must have a fever.”
“No no, it’s fine.” Iah stepped away from Misha’s outstretched hand. “I’m fine.”
“Is there a place she can sit and rest?” Bedivere asked.
“If she’s ill, I would rather take her to Abramo.” Misha said.
“I’ll go find him.” Iah whimpered. “Bedivere, you go.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” She smiled, but it looked forced. “Please, don’t stay behind on my account. I’m a big girl, I can take care-”
“Of yourself.” Bedivere nodded and smiled though she seemed unconvinced. “Alright. We’ll meet you in the barracks then?”
“Yep!” Iah waved them off and let out a sigh of relief when they were out of sight. She’d have to wash up and pilfer a robe later, when she could have her privacy.
She slipped through the room of initiates, trying to keep her steps careful and quiet, but many noticed her, only whispering to themselves. She wound down a hallway that she thought would lead back to the main hall, but instead she found a dead end.
The lost-looking girl halted in her tracks, chewing her inner cheek as she looked around. This was where Aeron and Nedjem were led, if she looked maybe she could-
Iah turned. And there was Nedjem.
He was in a plain initiate robe now, his hair tied back in a neat braid. The sparkly dress was over one arm.
“I was just looking for you.” He held the dress out. “This is yours.”
“Oh.” She chuckled and nodded.
“Is something wrong?” He pushed it toward her, and Iah took it silently, running her hands over the rhinestones in the fabric.
“No.” She smirked. “I just…hope you didn’t get your filth on it~”
Nedjem doubled over in laughter, and quickly righted himself. “What do you take me for, an amateur?”
“I’ve never seen you perform.” Iah put the dress back in her bag. “How else would I determine your level of skill?”
“Well, I can think of other ways.” Nedjem winked. “A duet, per se. You and I, and the cool night sky.”
“For what audience, the bears?”
“Hey, say what you will, but the Grizzlys know how to party.”
Iah laughed and met his eyes, and suddenly her smile faded. “So, um, I have a question.”
Nedjem looked concerned.
“Nothing bad. I think.” She directed him to a nearby wall and leaned her back against it, in lieu of sitting. “Do you…like me?”
“I…” Nedjem thought for a moment. “Well, yes I do. If my flirting makes you uncomfortable, I’ll stop immediately.”
“No, it doesn’t…not really.” Iah opened her mouth and waited for words to come out. “Do you…know?”
“Do I know what?”
Iah directed his attention to her shirt, and she undid her laces and pulled the fabric away, briefly revealing the broadness of her chest.
“I may look like this but…” She swallowed. “I didn’t know what you knew or thought, but I am a woman, so if that puts you off-”
“It doesn’t.” Nedjem said.
Iah furrowed her brows. “…I was clear right?” She gestured to her shirt again.
“To be honest, I wasn’t aware.” Nedjem shook his head. “And it doesn’t particularly matter to me. I still find you lovely.”
“But I thought…”
“You thought I was only interested in men?” Nedjem chuckled. “I’ve been with men, sure, and women too, and those who are…who they are.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “I like what I like, Iah.” He suddenly pulled back. “However, if you want me to stop-”
“No!” Iah cried, her smile beaming in the dimly-lit hallway. “No I…I like you too, Nedjem!” She giggled. “I don’t really know what to do now. I’ve never had someone like me back.”
“Well, we should first get you a robe.” Nedjem beckoned her to follow. “One last thing, do the others…?”
Iah shook her head. “No. I slipped away from Bedivere and Misha, and I don’t think anyone else in the party cares.”
“I see.” He said. “Keep our secret, then?”
“Yeah.” She shyly reached for his hand, and he grasped hers.