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Altar of Thunder

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Byleth has come down from the mountain, come to stand before some human lord with coffers fat on the tithes and labor of his people, and collect tribute.

Although her attire should mark her as a priestess, she’s made to wait a full day for the opportunity to stand in line for hours, behind a procession of people who curtsy and grovel as they bring their requests before the lord, and more often than not, leave with crushing disappointment on their faces. Perhaps this is the way of things—she’s never been tasked with collecting the sacrifice before.

When it’s finally her turn she steps forward, meets his eyes with her chin held high. Members of the priesthood bow only to the gods, and yet she can see a flash of ugly discontent cross his face.

“Lord Gloucester,” she says, clear and firm. “Your region was tasked with providing this year’s offering to the Storm Lord. I’ve come to retrieve them.”

He looks her over, a hint of scorn in his eyes, and he doesn’t even flinch as he blasphemes, “No.”

For a moment she just stares, stunned. The instructions they gave her for this task did not account for this possibility. 

“You are responsible for providing the offering this year,” she repeats firmly. “You should have been aware of this.”

“I deal with many requests, Priestess. It is part of my job. My responsibility is to sift through the endless sea of entreaties for my resources, time, and attention, and determine which ones are worthwhile. I have determined that yours is not. Do you realize what kind of coin it would take to send messengers to every settlement under my purview?”

A full room bears witness as he denies the gods, yet none protest. The watching courtiers have varying expressions—smug agreement, nervousness, shock—but all are silent. Complacent.

“We’re not a coastal region,” the lord continues, oily and insidious. “Why should we give one of our citizens for protections that they don’t even benefit from?”

“You benefit from trade with the regions on the coast. You benefit from the Tempest Lord’s mercy as he declines to wash out your roads and fields, to send lightning that sets fire to your holdings and winds that topple branches.”

The count laughs dryly. “I’ve seen none of these things in my lifetime.”

“My lord has not been borne such insult in your lifetime. You should have tales of his wrath.”

“The old tales also say we are supposed to profit from providing the gods with sacrifices—that our women might come back ripe with babes of inhuman beauty and the strength of a dozen men, that our men might return blessed with unearthly vigor. I’ve had a scholar look at records for the past two hundred years. The sacrifices to the Storm Lord return with nothing but strange yearnings, when they return at all. And not one of them can verify that what they encountered was truly a god. I’ve begun to suspect this is all an elaborate sham by the priesthood.”

Fury boils within her. How dare he doubt the evidence of the gods’ manifestations—how dare he treat the blessings that they give to their most favored as an entitlement.

“You do benefit,” she says sharply. “The Lord of Weather sends rain each year to water your crops.”

“And for that we thank him in our temples, alongside the gods of the harvest. But this little ceremony of yours exists to glorify his more savage incarnation, does it not?”

“You speak as if those are two entities, but they are both my lord. Do you truly believe he would bestow his blessings on those who only honor the parts of him they benefit from? I will ask once more. Take me to your volunteers, so that I may escort one of them to give themselves to the Storm Lord on behalf of their people.”

“And I’ll tell you once more—no such individuals exist. You are dismissed.”

A young man at the lord’s side, who’s watched their exchange with nervous eyes and an almost palpable discomfort, finally speaks. “Father, are you sure it is wise to deny—”

You are dismissed, Priestess. Leave before I have my guards escort you out.”

Byleth leaves, fists clenched tight at her sides. 

In the market, she approaches a woman selling fabric. “Did your city have a call for an offering this season?” Perhaps it was all lined up, and he simply failed to assemble the volunteers.

The woman blanches, clutching the bolt she’s been hawking to her chest as she stares at the regalia that marks Byleth as a priestess of the Storm Lord. “No, the lord—didn’t put out a call. Is it our turn?” 

“Yes.”

The woman mutters a prayer under her breath. “And we’re a week out from the festival. It’s...been a hard year, I don’t know how easy it’ll be for you to find someone. Normally the lord would compensate their family for the time away, but if he didn’t put out a call…”

“...He’s likely not planning on it.”

She nods, swallowing. “And...our last offering was one of the ones that...didn’t come back…” There’s a question in her eyes, like she wants Byleth to tell her what happens to those ones, like she wants to be reassured they joined the priesthood or were scooped up to the divine realms or took the opportunity to start a new life rather than returning to the one they left.

“That would make the call more difficult,” Byleth agrees. She considers a moment. “Where is your temple?” The priests there should have been helping the volunteers undergo purification rituals. Perhaps they made discreet arrangements of their own when the call failed to go out.

“The big one? Near the main gate, so the farming folk can get there easy. It’s a bit of a walk from here.”

Of course it is. She can’t rely on the temple panning out. She’ll have to look for volunteers on the way.

In the fading hours before evening, she makes her way towards the temple, stopping any likely candidates she passes. But what she’s asking isn’t the type of decision one makes on a whim. At best they tell her that they’d need several days to think about it, or that they’d need to talk with family back in their home village first.

She doesn’t have that kind of time.

She arrives at the temple near dusk, a general one with a small shrine to her lord that should have been helping the volunteers undergo purification rituals—and is met with pale faces and apologies. They hadn’t been told it was Gloucester’s turn, they say. The lord is supposed to notify the people, they say. They’ll make extra offerings to try to appease her lord’s wrath, they say. They’ll ask their sister temples to do the same.

The offer is an insult. They’re used to softer forms of worship. They burn incense in their temples, heap flowers on their altars, cook feasts that will never touch mortal lips. For some gods—gods of the harvest and hearth, of commerce and the arts, of places tamed and worked by man—that’s enough.

But the Storm God demands flesh.

She can’t hear him out here, far from his holy grounds—and she doesn’t know if his voice right now would be a comfort, or a painful reminder of her failure. If she’d come a week earlier, perhaps she could have found a volunteer among the townsfolk. She shouldn’t have expected the lord to do his duty. Shouldn’t have expected the local priesthood to ensure that he did. 

One more day. She can spare one more day and still make it back before the ceremony if she hurries. If she can find someone tomorrow, everything will be all right.

The morning does not bring better luck.

Yesterday, with limited time and the streets full of people relaxing after a day of labor, she’d approached only those who looked curious, open. But at this hour her pickings are slim—grandparents taking children for walks, people busy running errands. She has to approach more aggressively, stop those who look eligible when she finds them. 

Her welcome is cool.

Some of them look at her like she’s some beast come down from the mountains, strange and feral, or like she’s a vestige of some barbaric forgotten age, trapped behind the times. Others skeptically examine her robes and inform her that the lord would have put out a call if it were their turn this year. She finds a few more who tell her they’ll consider it, or that they would do it if not for their lover. As the morning goes on, she begins to attract onlookers, people who gather at a distance to point and whisper, or look at her in terror like a harbinger of the end times. A few approach her, beg for reassurances she can’t give.

Several hours in, she’s approached by the city guard, and told to leave town if she doesn’t want to get taken in as a charlatan impersonating a member of the priesthood.

The audacity.  

Her training tells her the people have grown complacent, spit on the gods and brought wrath down upon themselves. If she brings this news back to the temple, she knows that’s what they’ll tell her.

But looking around her, at the people who’ll be suffering for the hubris of this foolish human lord...the thought pains her.

Even more, her stomach clenches with ice at the thought of disappointing him, at the thought of him leaping down from the heavens to claim his due and finding the offering stone bare, the plateau empty.

It was her responsibility this year. She was supposed to come to this city, peruse the volunteers, and choose the person who would most please her lord. He’d spoken to her, whispered in the morning dew, echoed in the silence of the empty temple as she swept the dust of the days’ pilgrims away from the altar. 

Some of the priests have never even heard him once, never mind with the regularity she has these past few years. They think it’s because she was raised in the temple, brought as an infant by her father for reasons he still won’t disclose. It’s why she was given the honor of collecting the offering for this season, despite her relative youth and low rank. 

And she has no one to present to him. When he’d called her by name. When he’d said he was looking forward to seeing the person she chose for him.

The thought is unbearable.

And yet she has no choice but to turn back the way she came, to make the long trek back to the High Temple of Thunder alone. She passes pilgrims traveling to see the celebrations for the holy day when her lord will enter this realm, and looks at their excited faces with a sinking feeling in her stomach.

What can she do?

Should she stay at the holy site for his descent, prostrate herself before the empty offering stone so he can punish her to ease his wrath? How can she give him even some small fragment of what he’s due when she has no one to offer him?

The image of binding herself to the stone flashes in her brain with searing clarity.

She could do it. She’s the one who was supposed to present the offering this year. She has the training. 

Offerings are never part of the priesthood—you can’t give someone what already belongs to them. But if she has nothing else to give—the thought of offering up her own body, her own life, is a beacon of succor next to the agonizing thought of presenting nothing at all.

She can hear Brother Gilbert questioning this train of thought already—is this truly for him, or for your own conceit? But surely her god would be more pleased with whatever meager relief the gift of one already pledged to him can provide than with nothing at all. Even if it’s not enough to spare this region from his anger, he wouldn’t have to leave this realm completely unsated. 

The thought is far too tempting to be a good idea.

Despite her best efforts to remind herself of that, however, the suggestion haunts her for the next five days of travel.

She reaches the temple on the afternoon of the ceremony, a day after she should have arrived. The festivities have already started, some of her fellows leading a dance outside, a table of food set out to sustain the day’s pilgrims. They’re putting on a good face but the energy that’s normally in the air on this day is muted, and some of the priests who would normally be presiding over the celebrations are absent. She finds them waiting inside, watches the hope fall off their faces when they realize she’s alone.

“What happened, kid?” Jeralt asks.

“I was refused.”

Brother Gilbert shakes his head grimly. “Then they have brought the Tempest Lord’s wrath upon the entire region. The people have grown complacent. Perhaps this is what they need to remind them of their duty.”

Most of them disperse, but Jeralt catches up to her as she walks to her room to deposit her travel satchel. “Hey. It’s not your fault—you know that, right? They brought this on themselves down there.”

She nods. 

“He likes you. You’ve heard him more than the rest of us combined. I doubt he’ll blame you for this.”

But she will.

With no way to carry out her assigned duties for the day, she wanders aimlessly throughout the temple. The festivities have taken a dour turn, cautionary tales outweighing the celebratory, prayers led with a desperate note. The pilgrims who’ve come to visit look confused, anxious, some of them fumbling through their pockets for things to leave on the altar. 

Trinkets. Honey cakes and posies. It’s like trying to dam a river with twigs.

Before she even consciously realizes she’s made a decision, her feet take her to the purification chamber. Where she should have been right now, helping prepare the offering to meet their lord. The area is abandoned, set out of the way so those brought here can be escorted up the mountain in privacy.

No one has come to clean up yet, that would have been her job. The tub is still set out in the middle of the room, bowls of cleansing herbs and salt laid out on a tray, ceremonial robes prepared in various sizes. Everything is ready, except the offering.

With a deep breath, she starts to strip. 

Normally, the offering would sit in the empty tub, and the priests would dump each bucket of water over them as they filled it. There are only three buckets in the room, though, and she’s supposed to dump at least twelve, so she’ll have to hop in and out of the tub to do it. Hopefully, that’s not too much of a deviation.

The water is freezing as she pours it over her head. Purifying, she guesses. As the first three buckets sluice down her body she scrubs herself roughly with handfuls of salt. 

The oils mixed into it mean the salt’s still crusted over her skin when she jumps out to fill her buckets again. Her walk to the pump leaves a crumbly trail on the stone floor. And when she gets back in and pours the next bucket over her head while incanting the prayers she’s supposed to recite as a priest in this ritual, she ends up with a mouthful of water. There should be a sort of sacred rhythm to this process, but she’s feeling very...earthly right now. She can only hope she’s not profaning the ritual irredeemably.

After washing the salt off, she repeats the scrub and rinse with the herbs, then pours the last three buckets over her head and sits in the tub until she finishes the recitations. Drys off before combing sacred oils carefully through her damp hair and rubbing them into her skin. 

The next step—she’s not certain on. The only time she’d assisted with this ceremony, the offering was male. Is she supposed to use the plug? 

She opens the jar of salve and spreads her thighs. Better to be safe.

The tip of the metal plug settles easily at the entrance to her ass, spreads her in a cool glide, the chill making her breath catch in her throat. It’s a strange weight inside, an odd fullness as the narrow base settles into place between her cheeks. 

Next is the ceremonial robe—thin and white, not much of a robe at all. She slips her arm through the single armhole and brings the two sides together on her opposite hip—there’s just barely enough overlap to cover her tits and ass, her thigh and shoulder exposed as she ties on the cord belt to hold it in place.

Finally, in the reflected surface of the bathwater, she carefully lines her eyes and rubs rouge on her lips and cheeks. 

She’d be ready to go now. If she were fit to fill this role in the first place.

It’s the best she can do. She ties on a pair of sandals, puts the priest’s key around her neck, and grabs the blindfold—and, after a moment of thought, the belts of the other two robes. 

She makes her way up to the offering site alone, following the ancient stone carvings past increasingly sparse trees and hoping with all her might that she truly is doing this for him and not herself. With every step the plug jostles within her, causing a strange heat that’s a constant reminder of just what she’s heading to proffer to her lord.

The stone is as always—a white mass upon a grassy precipice, looking out over a wide swath of her lord’s domain, a carved stone arch and pillars forming a clear boundary between the path she just followed and this most sacred ground. Four rings of dark metal are drilled into the stone, each one with a manacle on a short chain. To remove the temptation for those offered here to reach out and touch the divine without invitation, to remove their blindfolds and look upon what is not meant for mortal eyes.

Between the two lower manacles, there’s an alcove, for her lord to stand as he claims his tribute.

Ten times now she’s come here in the mornings after this holy rite, helped unbind them and looked at the marks on their bodies and envied. Twice she’s collected their corpses, washed the stone clean of blood and tried not to wonder what they did, if they were simply punished for the sins of their people, or if they brought corruption in their hearts—if they had betrayed the trust placed in them and tried to steal a glimpse at the Storm Lord’s might, or, in brazen sacrilege, attempted to snatch a hair from his head that they might attain immortality.

She’s been trying to avoid considering odds, but there’s a good chance she’ll join the ranks of the offered dead by morning. Perhaps as merely the priest in charge of collection, she wouldn’t have been blamed for the missing sacrifice—but by offering herself on this rock, she’s accepting the burden of his judgement upon herself, whatever it may be. 

Even if that judgement is dire, by taking the first blow she might lessen his ire. And if it’s not...that’s the prospect that makes her fear she’s doing this out of hubris and self-interest.

The wrists will be the hardest part. The chains are long enough that she should be able to fasten one wrist in place, but then she won’t have a hand free to lock the other one. Rope isn’t traditional, but she hopes it’s enough in keeping with the spirit to suffice.

Holding her two cords together, she knots one end into a loose loop and secures the other to the metal ring that holds the chain intended for her dominant hand. It’ll have to do. 

She climbs onto the rock.

It’s cold against her ass and thighs through the thin robe, clinking against the plug each time she shifts to clap the manacles around her ankles. If she drops the key in the middle of locking the cuffs, she’s fucked, and even with its chain looped about her wrist, her knuckles are white with the force of her grip as she locks her ankles in.

Her legs secured, she replaces the key about her neck and unfurls the blindfold.

The fabric is thick, dark—not even a hint of light seeps through as she settles it over her eyes. She catches her hair painfully the first time she tries to tie it off—this would be a great deal easier if she were preparing someone else—but the second time she’s able to pull it snug, an almost comforting pressure on her temples and her eyes. 

Despite the slight comfort, she has to carefully feel out the remaining manacle and settle her wrist in place before she dares remove the key from around her neck again.

Holding her breath, she fumbles blindly for the lock. The key slips on the metal, almost twists out of her fingers as she strains for the right angle. Finally, it jostles into place, and she can slide it in and twist. 

She puts the key back around her neck—where it should be as the officiating priest—with a slow inhale. Now she just has to get her wrist through the loop without knocking the rope off the edge. Inching her fingers carefully across the stone, she feels for the rope above her head and catches the edge enough to grab it and slip her hand through.

There will be no one to come release her in the morning, but she can’t worry about that now. Can’t give in to the temptation to leave the knot loose enough she’ll be able to wriggle free. That would be an insult, and she’ll be delivering enough of those already.

Perhaps if he’s merciful, he might loose her bindings when he’s finished with her. If not...hopefully her father or one of the other priests will notice she’s missing and find her. If she’s even still alive.

She yanks, and the knot draws tight around her wrist. No more room for corrections. All she can do now is wait.

The rain comes first.

At first it’s a near-imperceptible mist on her face, but it grows to a downpour that wets her skin, makes the thin robe cling to her body and plasters her bangs against her forehead. She’s shivering, despite herself—can feel her skin tightening with the chill, her nipples stiff and her limbs pebbled with goosebumps. 

Or maybe it’s anticipation that has her shivering. He’s coming. Her stomach is tight with fear but there’s a strange invigorating thrill pulsing through her veins. That might be her death approaching and yet she’s never felt more alive.

A noise like distant thunder starts to resound at the edge of hearing. She breathes in, out as it grows gradually louder and sharper, a warmth swirling through her body even as her blood starts to race .

The air feels charged, ripe with an electric tension. Her body prickles, hairs standing on end as the scent of ozone fills her nose. 

A loud crack. The hungry energy in the air builds even further, until it feels like she’s drowning in it, like it’s going to consume her alive.

The thunder recedes back into the distance, and she hears a sound like a footstep, like fabric and metal shifting.

He’s here.

Over the drum of the rain, Byleth hears footsteps on the wet grass—unhurried, inexorable. She swears she can feel the tension in the air amplify as they draw near, that she can feel his gaze roaming over her—her bound ankles, her blindfolded face, the soaked robe clinging to the curves of her body. He doesn’t speak a word.

She holds her breath, her pulse like a hummingbird in her throat. Let her be enough to sate him. Let him understand that her own body and life is the best she could offer, that she does it gladly. 

The footsteps stop before the altar.

“Well,” he rumbles. “This is a pleasant surprise.”

Desperate, incredulous relief surges over her, and on its heels an outpouring of guilty elation. Pleasant. Discovering her there as a haphazard substitute for the proper offering he was due is...pleasant.

Her lips open, but the rain trickles into her mouth before any words manage to leave. What does she say? Thank you? She had a dozen apologies prepared, but none of them work in response to that.

“Look at you. All laid out for me. You did this yourself?” Another footstep, and his voice gets even closer, like he’s walked around the rock to stand near her head. A hand, searing in the cool rain, cups the side of her face, tilting it in the direction his voice is coming.

“Yes,” she gets out. “I didn’t ask anyone,” she adds, not wanting him to think that the others were neglectful.

“And the offerings from Gloucester? Did they not meet your standards?” His fingers brush away the locks of hair plastered to her temples.

“The lord refused me,” she admits. 

His noise is low, angry. “I see. And you wished to spare him from my vengeance?”

“I...didn’t want you to leave this realm unsated,” she says. “And—I think the people would have risen to the call, if only I’d had time. I wished to ease the retribution they received, I think.”

“I see.” His tone is considering. “Well, if one human lord’s foolishness can doom this realm to my ire, I can allow one devout worshipper’s sacrifice to save it. The lord will pay, but the people…” His thumb trails over her lip. “I can hardly fault them for the lack of an offering when I have such a perfect one before me.”

Perfect. Her mind curls covetously around the praise, preening even as she exhales in relief. “My lord, I—”

“Call me by my name, Byleth.”

Her chest jumps in disbelief, and it leaves her lips like a prayer. “Dimitri.” 

There’s a noise, soft and approving, and then a tension pulling at her rope belt and the spot where the robe gathers at her shoulder. He rips through them as if they were made of wet paper—two quick tugs and she’s exposed, laid bare before her lord as he pulls the wet fabric off her body. 

“You are...”

His hand—or it feels like a hand—settles heavily on one of her tits—and it can’t be just the rain, his touch feels impossibly hot, feverish, as though there’s too much energy inside him and the excess is pouring out through his flesh. 

“...I know we’ve spoken many times, but in those more spiritual avenues of communication, I failed to properly appreciate the charms of your physical form.” 

A tiny huff of a laugh escapes her, for a moment his tone so keenly reminiscent of the voice in her head that’s become almost...a friend. He’s normally darker in this aspect, more brooding, and she has to remind herself that the gods don’t think as mortals do, that his fury could turn on her at a moment’s notice.

“I didn’t know the gods cared for such things.”

“Beauty?” His other hand traces the curve of her hip. “Yet you strive for it in your offerings, do you not?”

Byleth may be bold, but she’s not bold enough to say aloud that she thought he meant big tits.

His fingers sink into her flesh, grip just shy of painful in a way that makes her pulse race, her pussy clench on nothing. His touches don’t feel intended to arouse, more to appraise, but heat’s building in her body all the same. He’s pleased with what she has to offer him. He’s pleased with her.

The touch on her chest slides down her abdomen, cutting through the water that’s pooled there despite the rain’s gradual retreat to a drizzle. She’s trying to be still and docile, a willing vessel for her lord to enjoy at his whims, but as the hot path of his hand reaches her mound her hips arch up unconsciously, pressing her body into his touch.

And he rewards her for her presumption, a warm squeeze that presses her lower lips around her clit and has her gasping—before his hands leave her body entirely. Perhaps it wasn’t a reward after all.

She hears a shifting, as though he’s walking around the stone again. Did he realize her ulterior motives, that she wanted this, that perhaps it was lust rather than devotion that drove her here? Over the soft drum of the rain, her pulse is racing in her ears, breath held in her chest as she waits for his judgment. Yet her body is excited, the thrill of fear not only failing to cool her arousal, but fanning it. 

Dimitri stops at the base of the rock. 

In the absence of his touch she’s again keenly aware of how the air is almost humming, the charge in it nearly tangible.

Her skin prickles in curious anticipation, waiting for his next touch. When the heat of his fingers lands on her inner thigh, her pussy throbs with assumptive anticipation. Despite knowing why they’re both here, she holds her breath as his hand traces up her thigh, aware he’s going to find her dripping—but rather than discovering the wetness between her legs, his touch halts on the metal between her cheeks. 

“You even prepared your rear for me,” he says, tone almost admiring as he toys with the base of the plug.

“Yes,” she says, cringing inside at how breathy, how wanting the word is as it leaves her throat.

The plug tugs at her rim, strains there for a moment, then spreads her wide as he pulls it free. Her ass feels odd and empty as she listens to it clink against the stone and roll away. Is he going to fuck her there?

But his fingers slide upward instead. “I appreciate the diligence. But I’d rather have your cunt tonight.”

Please, her mind screams, and she’s sure she doesn’t say it aloud but he chuckles, low and lewd, like he heard her anyway.

“Eager,” he says, hot fingers sliding into her engorged folds. They glide slippery over her skin, and she bites her lip at the feel of how ready her body is.

He traces over the entrance to her cunt and makes a noise, like air between his teeth. “You know that only the Blademaster requires his priests to be virgins, don’t you?” His tone is almost teasing as he slides a finger into her cunt and pumps it slowly in and out.

“We don’t—get out much up here,” she gasps, her hips twitching as something—the pad of his thumb?—lands just above her clit.

“You could if you wished. Some of your fellows visit the nearby villages regularly. But you…” His thumb circles her swollen clit. “You would rather stay up here where you can talk with me, wouldn’t you?”

The truth of it punches her in the chest. In her head it was a measure of duty, of taking her role seriously—but she’s never thought less of the devotion of those with families in the village. Now that he’s said it aloud...perhaps her reluctance to leave was always just a pretty veneer over a fear that she might hear from him if only she stayed. What earthly frivolities could ever compare?

Her nod feels like a confession.

The noise he makes is pleased. His thumb on her clit gets firmer, more purposeful, and the finger inside her presses up. Even beyond the heat, there’s something about his touch that doesn’t feel human, a sort of deep tingling that makes her cunt convulse as it presses up inside her. 

“I should reward such devotion.” 

His other hand caresses the curve of her side, fondles her tits as he continues to work her over. Faster than she’s ever come on her own, she’s falling apart on his fingers, caught up in the reality of the fantasy that she’s never admitted outside of fleeting dreams. Dimitri is touching her cunt, is going to fuck it.

The manacles rattle as her limbs jerk involuntarily, and his hand leaves her tit to hold down her arm where it just yanked painfully against the cuff. A wet heat lands over the nipple he’d been toying with, caressing it with plush suction and a tease of something sharp, is that his mouth?

Once her body calms, he releases her arm, but only to better maneuver her tits towards his mouth. His other hand stays where it is, tucked up inside her, thumb warming her clit as he works her breasts over with lips and teeth. She’ll be wearing his marks in the morning, wishes she could wear them for the rest of her life.

With a last kiss sucked into the valley between her breasts, his mouth and hands withdraw, and she has to clamp down on the mournful noise trying to form in her throat. 

A footstep, like he’s stepped even closer into the alcove between her legs. A noise like fabric and metal falling to the ground. She waits breathlessly for his next touch—his hands on her hips? His cock nudging between her legs? 

But his hands land on her face, fingers cupping her cheeks. 

He pushes up her blindfold.

In a panic, she clenches her eyes tightly shut as it starts to shift. Without the dense fabric, she can sense light past her eyelids—more than there should be, for the weather and the hour—but he’s still protected from her gaze.

“This isn’t a test, Byleth. Open your eyes. I want to see them.”

Even in her guiltiest, most self-indulgent fantasies, she never imagined this privilege. He wants to see her eyes. Wants her to look upon him. She can feel her empty cunt twitch shamefully at the thought.

Heart in her throat…she opens her eyes.

With vision adjusted to the darkness, her first impression is that of light. He’s wreathed in an unearthly glow that emanates from his entire body, and in the moment before her eyes focus she wonders if the holy sight has blinded her.

But no. Finally she sees him, and she’s only more dazzled.

Surely her eyes weren’t meant to take in this sort of beauty. Neither the statues nor her buried dreams ever even came close.

He’s naked but for bracers on his forearms and storm clouds gathered about his shoulders like a mantle, flowing into a watery cloak of deep blue. A crown of lightning floats above his head, endlessly shifting.

His form is sculpted with inhuman precision, his jaw impossibly angular, his lashes sharp and dark despite his pale hair. His right eye is covered in a black patch, and she knows what’s underneath it from the scriptures—a hungry void consumed by a never-ending storm, a scar from a battle with his milk-sister when she fought to dethrone the world goddess Rhea as ruler of the heavens.

She can see the crystalline scar peeking out, from where his constant ally the Bulwark tried to suture the wound before it could swallow the earth.

There are similar scars she doesn’t recognize, ones that aren’t in the tales. They’re scattered over his entire body, the most prominent in two bold slashes on his chest.

The battle must have been terrible.

Yet rather than sympathy, she’s consumed with the desire to touch, to run her hands over the planes of his chest and learn them with her fingers.

It’s a good thing her hands are bound. Bestowed with an honor greater than she could have dreamed, and she just wants more .

“Pretty,” he says, and it takes her a moment to realize he’s talking about her eyes. 

A proud warmth fills her. “Thank you, my—Dimitri.”

“Your Dimitri?” He puts his hand on her thigh and squeezes. “How cheeky. I give you one peek and suddenly I belong to you?”

His expression is amused, but an apology still rushes to her lips. 

“Forgive me, I didn’t mean—” she trails off into an eager gasp as his hand slides under her rear and lifts her hips off the stone. She hasn’t allowed herself to lower her eyes below his chest, but her gaze flies down instinctively as something fleshy and hotter than even his hands brushes her inner thigh. 

He’s got his cock in his hand, flushed and imposing, a crystal scar polished smooth gleaming near the base as he aims it at the juncture of her legs.

Her cunt twitches.

When Dimitri speaks again his voice is darker, a thunder that reverberates through her skull. “Do you offer up your body to me?”

Yes,” she gasps. Let her show her devotion, let her give, let her worship him with her cunt if she can’t do it with her hands.

The charge in the air grows thick. His gaze feels like it might bore through her soul.

“I accept your offering.”

It’s not slow. 

The heat of his cock grazes where she’s wet and open, and in one swift punch of his hips he’s inside her, claiming her, carving out a domain in her body with his cock.

A flash of pain and then nothing but him—his hands on her thighs lifting her lower body off the stone, his cock pistoning between her legs, wet with her, marked by her. Over the euphoric stretch she’s barely aware of her chained hands, of how her new position is making the manacles strain at her ankles. 

There’s a potential growing, a feeling like power, a hum building in on itself with the pulse of their bodies meeting.

“You’re taking me so well,” he murmurs, not even panting as he drives into her in short, sharp thrusts. Her heart soars, a greedy sense of specialness budding as he adds, “I don’t ordinarily do this, but perhaps—”

He takes her slower, deeper, and that ridge of crystal bumps against the entrance to her cunt. She wills her body to relax, to accept, and it presses inside her, dragging over the sensitive flesh just past the entrance as he plunges deeper—until his pelvis is pushing against the cradle of her hips, until she can’t see his cock between her thighs because all of it is buried up inside her.

His groan is deep, indulgent, like a man tasting pleasures he hasn’t had in far too long. She made him feel like that. She was able to do that for him.

Seeing him between her legs is like a fever dream, fantastic and impossible, the cool stone at her back and the maddening heat driving into her cunt the only signs she’s not imagining this. She clenches down around him, relishing the shape of him inside her, and he moans. This must be what ecstasy feels like—her pussy wrapped around her god and worshiping him with every quiver of flesh.

His name is falling from her lips like a litany as she offers herself up in supplication. With each thrust she’s rewarded a hundredfold, by that ridge sending shocks of pleasure up her spine, by that heat delving deep within her, by the soft gasps coming from his throat.

She’s pinned, not just by the manacles but by his single eye fixed upon her, watching every shift in her expression as he devours his offering. A forceful thrust tears a cry from her, echoing and desperate, and a savage light dawns in his gaze.

He fucks her harder.

With each surge forward he’s not just plunging into her but shoving her onto his cock, cramming every inch of it up inside her. There’s a low rumble building in his chest, thin crackles of electricity flashing over his skin, beautiful and terrifying. 

The faint tingling of his touch is a thrum now. Sparks jump between them whenever he shifts his hands on her hips, tiny shocks of exhilarating pain over the heat between her legs. His cock is a hungry pulse in her cunt, ripping moans from her chest as he ruts into her. When he slides out the pulse intensifies until her clit feels like it’s fluttering—and every slam back in glides over the sensitive spots inside her. 

She can’t take it. Nothing’s even touching her clit but it’s throbbing to that hum inside her, she’s going to—

Her wail is loud enough to echo, and his answering call even louder, reverberating down the mountain as something in his expression snaps and he goes from fucking her pussy to ravaging it.

It feels like he’s going to drive her through the stone, like the force of his thrusts might break her, and wouldn’t that be a way to die?

She should be in pain, maybe, but her head is floating, her cunt spasming deliriously around Dimitri’s prick as it rams into her, drags over her inner walls, sends thrumming pulses resonating through her entire vulva. Is she coming? Her body’s not even sure what’s happening anymore, only that it’s good, that she needs it.

“Take me,” he groans, and there’s nothing human left in his voice, only the storm. His fingers dig into her hips with bruising force and he slams home, hunches forward with a cry like thunder. His hips strain into her, his expression raw, eye closed in bliss.

With the force of a torrent, he anoints her, and she accepts each gush with relish.

Slowly, his cock stops twitching inside her, the electricity dancing over his skin fades, the thirst in his expression grows slaked. He’s close enough that her breath might stir his hair if she blew, that she could reach out and touch his cheek if his hands were free. After a moment, he shifts his hips back, not enough to leave her cunt, just enough to ease the strain on her pelvis. He’s looking at her again. She can feel his seed leaking out, thicker and hotter than her own fluids.

She has no idea what one says in this situation.

Perhaps it’s the charge she can still feel in the air, but the silence between them is heavy in a way that has her swallowing—like it’s moving somewhere, like it’s trying to pull her with it. There’s a pressure in his gaze that feels like it might drown her, yet the thought of looking away is unthinkable.

His hands land on the stone, his arms bracketing her. Somehow she feels even more ensnared, her bound limbs and the stone at her back nothing next to her god pinning her in...and leaning closer and kissing her, breath against her face, lips hot on hers.

This was so far outside the realms of possibility that she freezes for a moment, mind blank and unresponsive. It takes his tongue sweeping over the seam of her mouth for her body to jolt into action and meet him, hesitant and reverent. 

His noise is approving as she kisses back, voicelessly swearing fealty with her lips as she lies upon his altar. 

The tingling of his touch is almost unnoticeable again, even when he cups the back of her neck and the side of her tit. There’s the faintest prickle as his tongue traces over the inside of her lip, and nothing else but heat and the silky glide of skin on skin. His prick is still a teasing weight inside her, motionless but solid, and she clenches down around the pleasant fullness.

“Don’t do that unless you want to be fucked again,” he says against her lips, his fingers sinking into the soft flesh of her tit.

That’s an option?

She squeezes harder.

She can feel his lips pulling into a grin, feel his brief surprised laugh against her mouth. 

“I see,” he says, lifting himself up, looking down at her with a challenging gleam in his eye. His crown crackles brightly. “Humanity’s tithe is paid, but if that is what you wish…” His hips start to rock into her again, fucking his spend into her pussy.

He takes her for hours, until it feels like her body has reshaped itself around him, until having him inside her feels as natural as breathing. When her cunt grows sore from use she offers her ass, and he refreshes her aching body with a light touch of his hand but takes her up on the offer anyway. Again and again he touches her, kisses her, fills her, until the light of dawn is creeping over the horizon.

As the morning looms brighter, he pulls out of her, and she knows it’s time.

“I need to depart this realm soon,” he murmurs, stroking her hair. “Thank you for the gift.”

“I should be the one thanking you,” she says. For accepting her offering at all. For giving her more orgasms over the course of the night than she thinks she’s had in the past five years combined.

“No,” he says, and his voice is entirely human but his tone is dark with—disgust? Regret? “You shouldn’t.” 

He doesn’t elaborate, and she doesn’t have the impression that he would enjoy questions on the matter. 

“I’ve thanked people for boons far smaller than the best hours of my life,” she says, shrugging as well as she can with her arms bound above her head. 

“Even if those boons were borne of selfishness?” There’s something strange in the way he says it, like he knows something she doesn’t.

“Should we fault the bees that enable the harvest because they do so for their own ends? Your friend the Bulwark tells us to honor them for what they give us.”

He stares as though she caught him off guard, then finally shakes his head and laughs. “I suppose he does.”

With one last kiss, he steps back, cock hanging heavy and wet between his legs. She can’t help a tiny noise of loss from forming in her throat, and he looks at her indulgently. 

“We’ll meet again,” he says, and yes, she knows they’ll talk again, but it won’t be the same. 

His crown—no, his entire body—grows brighter, until she has to close her eyes to avoid being blinded. A clap like a lightning strike and then a disconcerting emptiness. The distant drum of rain and thunder has stopped. The energy in the air, which had grown so familiar she’d stopped noticing it, is gone. 

When she opens her eyes, the plateau is empty, and the clouds are parting to let the first rays of morning sun shine over the mountains. 

It’s over.

Over the painful stab of loss, of knowing that she’ll never have this again, comes a dawning awareness of her body. Of how her back is feeling numb against the stone, how her wrists and ankles are chafed and her limbs yearn to move. Of how many lovebites he left on her chest, of how much seed is leaking from her ass and pussy.

It hurts to think that next year this will be someone else. She doesn’t know if she can be in charge again. Might have to tell the others not to appoint her.

They must know she’s missing by now. Hard not to after she missed the ceremony for the Descent. By now they must have checked the purification chamber and figured out where she’d gone.

They probably think she’s dead. Hopefully they still send someone quickly.

...Hopefully that someone isn’t her father.

It’s silent on the plateau, even the birds that inhabit the mountain hesitant to approach this holy ground. Her limbs are starting to prickle, the remnants of her robe are drying uncomfortably against her skin, and somehow, she’s exhausted enough to fall asleep like that.

She’s woken by the sound of boots on the stone stairs to the plateau, then squishing through the wet grass. The sun is still low in the sky, they must have set out at first light. 

A grim-faced Catherine steps into her field of vision, and does a double take. “You’re alive!” Her face splits into a grin.

What? ” A second, heavier set of footsteps approaches at a run, then abruptly stops. “Wait. I probably don’t want to see this, do I.” So Jeralt did come.

“No!” she calls, as Catherine yells back, “Definitely not!”

Catherine lifts the key off her neck. “You know, I spent the entire walk here wishing we’d miraculously find you alive so I could lecture you on how damned stupid this was, but now that I have…” She gives Byleth a pointed look up and down. “I’m thinking you knew what the Storm Lord wanted better than we did.”

Catherine unlocks her wrist, and brings her arm down to rest at her side. “I’d say you still should have asked for help with this rather than running off on your own, but I think we probably all would have tried to stop you. Which I’m betting is why you didn’t.”

“I thought it was foolhardy too,” Byleth admits, flexing her fingers. 

“Don’t tell your old man that,” Catherine says, walking around to her other side and loosening the knot around her wrist.

“Too late,” Jeralt calls from somewhere behind them.

They’re going to be having a talk later.

Catherine comes down to the base of the rock to release the ankle cuffs, clearly trying very hard not to gape at the mess between Byleth’s legs. “He really, uh, enjoyed you, huh?” she comments awkwardly.

Byleth feels herself smiling like a besotted village youth. “I think so.”

Catherine finishes freeing her ankles and helps her sit up, holding out a robe to replace the thin, damp, torn one she came in. “Thank your father for insisting we bring this. If it had just been me, you would have had to make do with the sheet we brought to wrap your body in.”

She stands on shaky legs and pulls the robe on. She can feel Dimitri’s seed leaking out of her, and part of her wants to pick up the discarded plug and seal it inside her so she can hold onto that reminder a little longer—but Catherine is right there. 

“She’s decent!” Catherine calls out, starting to pick up the items left behind. 

As Catherine works to untie the cords from the offering stone, and Byleth focuses on standing steady, Jeralt strides around the stone and envelops her in a hug.

“Don’t scare me like that, kid.”

“I’ll try,” she says, muffled into his chest.

When they finally part, Catherine is standing there with the blindfold in her hand. “Okay. I waited until Jeralt came over so you wouldn’t have to explain twice. What happened with the blindfold and your hair?”

“He pushed it up,” Byleth says slowly. “Permitted me to look at him. He... said he wanted to see my eyes.” 

Jeralt gives her a concerned look at whatever he’s reading in her face. “Careful. Don’t break your own heart.”

She nods. “I know.”

“And your hair?” Catherine asks impatiently.

“...What about it?” Byleth runs a hand over her head, but her hair feels the same as always.

Jeralt buries his face in his palm. “I swear, next time I hear from him…”

She pulls a lock into her field of vision, and gasps.

She’s god-marked.

It hasn’t happened in living memory. Even blessings of vigor and strength, like Lord Gloucester had groused over, were recorded and verified. But the gods marking a mortal as reserved for their own purposes, as a brand, as a warning—that’s a thing of legend.

She blinks, as though that will dispel the mirage. “He didn’t say anything.” 

“Nothing? I thought that always came with a sacred mission. Go found an empire, or build me a mighty temple, or something. Compose an epic of my greatest battles that will last the ages.”

She thinks back, tries to recall everything he’d said to her. “No. Nothing like that.”

Her stomach grumbles loudly, and Jeralt shakes his head. “Let’s head back. You can try to figure it out on the way.”

As they make their way back down the mountain, Catherine guesses at what holy purpose Dimitri has in mind for her. “You’re skilled with a sword—maybe you’re supposed to single-handedly turn the tides of a war?”

Byleth shakes her head. “There isn’t a war going on right now.” She’s still turning their exchanges over in her mind, looking for clues, but the come dripping down her thighs is making it difficult to focus. Selfishness. He’d said something about boons given out of selfishness. Is this what he was talking about?

“That we know of,” Catherine points out. “News could be on the way. Or maybe you’re supposed to fix the system so we don’t get a year with no volunteers again? No, that seems too small.”

“Maybe,” Jeralt says, “he’s going to tell her later.”

“That’s the boring answer, but he does talk to you a lot.” Catherine’s shoulders slump for a moment, before perking back up. “What was it like to actually meet him?”

She’s opening her mouth to reply when his parting words strike her like a bolt. We’ll meet again, he’d said. Not speak. Meet.

She smiles.