Learning Phase, Chapter 3

  • Posted on January 28, 2021 at 2:58 pm

By Nuit du Loup

Karin awoke slowly the next morning and for just a moment she felt surprised that she wasn’t in the room she shared with three other girls at the orphanage. Instead she lay curled under blissfully warm sheets in what to her was a massive sized bed. The room itself was also far larger than her old one and it seemed sadly empty and bare with just the bed and the dresser. Then she remembered where she was and how she had gotten here and a fire of happiness flooded through her body.

“My own room!” she giggled to no one in particular, grinning like an idiot.

She turned the rest of the way onto her stomach and stretched her body to loosen up a little. Most people would have done that on their back, but her wings made anything in that position uncomfortable or awkward. Her wings were also the reason she slept topless. The unrestricted feel was a lot more comfortable.

For a brief moment, she hugged one of the half-dozen pillows that had come with the bed and remembered the night before; the night she, Ayaka, and Sora had become sisters in Isana’s home. Isana’s hug had been so warm and welcoming that she couldn’t help feeling a little gooey inside. She could almost feel a remembrance of it even now. Then Karin rolled more onto her side as a loud cacophony of birdsong arose from outside her window and diverted her attention.

Curious, she pushed up and then slipped out of the bed. It was summer and the warmth from the rising sun made standing on the bedside rug in just a pair of pink and white striped panties perfectly comfortable. So she strode to the window as she also stretched out her wings and gave them a few quick flaps to loosen those muscles up too.

The window was a large one. Had she stood on the sill, it was taller than she was tall with an arched top. Brackets on either side near the top showed where curtains must have hung at one time, but now the window was bare. The deep sill was just above waist height, so she found it easy enough to lift up and sit on it sideways to look out from her new forest-bound home.

The forest was why she was unconcerned about anyone outside seeing her undressed. No one was out there to see her skinny, tan-skinned body and her tiny breasts. The only people that might see her would be the other girls and Isana, and she felt unconcerned about them walking in and seeing her mostly naked; instead her eyes widened in joy at the sight before her.

Outside the window was a panorama of green growing things.  Massively thick trees, exploding with vibrant green foliage covered the land in all directions for as far as she could see. Under them was dense undergrowth with a wild variety of different plants. In the distance, she could see a small group of deer walking calmly through the brush, stopping occasionally to nibble at something.  They were led by a proud-looking stag with an impressive rack.

Closest to her window was a particularly massive oak tree. In its branches was a flock of small, noisy birds, sparrows maybe. She saw nests in some of the branches and wondered how many of them lived in the tree. In all, it was the biggest profusion of nature and life that she’d ever seen. Ayaka would love it.

“Oh?”

Thinking of Ayaka and then Sora, Karin slipped back down to her feet with the intent to find them. They, along with Isana, were her family now and she wanted to see them. She detoured on the way to the bag with her clothes to pee first and that took a bit.  She’d been more than a little impressed by the bathroom the night before and now that she saw it in daylight it was even more so.  The floor and the bottom half of the walls were tiled in a black and white pattern. The bathing area with its big tub and separate shower unit were in an almost separate alcove from the toilet and double sink. She was determined to try out that shower soon since all they’d had before were bathtubs. Then she went back and unzipped the lumpy luggage bag and tried to decide what to wear, which made her giggle again.

Normally she didn’t really care what she wore and just threw things on. Now she was suddenly worried about making the right impression on the others, even though Ayaka and Sora had seen everything she owned a thousand times. The only person for whom something would be new would be Isana, and Isana had told her the night before during the dinner that she thought her outfit had been cute.

Going with that, she pulled out the only other skirt she had. It was a white one that hung to just above her knees. Then she took out a loose,black strapped top that had a back low enough that it hadn’t needed to be modified to allow for her wings. She left her feet bare because she was already starting to like the contrasting feel of the smooth wood floors and the thick rugs Isana had laid over them in places. Once finished, she decided to head to Ayaka’s room first since she knew Ayaka always woke up early.

“Come in!” Ayaka called pleasantly when Karin knocked on her closed door. Knocking was one of the primary rules back at the orphanage where privacy had been a scarce thing.

“Morning Ayaka!” Karin called back, popping eagerly into the room. She was unsurprised to see that the bed was made and Ayaka’s luggage bag lay empty next to the dresser. Ayaka herself was sitting just as Karin had been in her own window. She was dressed casually in a pair of loose jeans and a white tank top. “Enjoying the view?”

“You have no idea how wonderful this place feels,” Ayaka sighed, closing her eyes and then breathing deeply. “It screams ‘you are home’ to every bone in my body.”

“It feels like home to me too,” Karin giggled, and approached her new sister and hugged her left, outward arm. Karin breathed deep too, smelling the herbal shampoo of Isana’s that Ayaka had used.  Ayaka’s eyes blinked open in surprise at the hug and Karin grinned playfully at her. “This is our home now, Isana said so. That means we’re sisters.”

“So she did,” Ayaka smiled back, “and I suppose we are sisters now Karin. It makes me sorry we didn’t hang out much before we came here, even though we lived in the orphanage together for years.”

“Hey, there were over a hundred girls there,” Karin said easily. “Plus, you were there longer than I was and already had friends.  I would just have been a new weird girl with dragon wings and a big horn.”

“I’ve always liked your wings,” Ayaka said, turning her head to look at Karin directly. Karin saw she was entirely sincere and greatly appreciated the comment. “We’re only half a year apart in age, so I should have talked to you more. I suppose that’s a moot point though. Now we’ll live together from here on out, and with Sora too, so we’ll have plenty of time for getting to know each other.”

“And it’s a lot better than the city,” Karin added, nodding to the scenery outside the window.

“It’s certainly my kind of place,” Ayaka agreed. “It just feels so good!”

“Good people, great place,” Karin smiled and hugged Ayaka a little closer. “The only thing missing is a great breakfast!”

Ayaka snorted a surprised laugh, “I was actually thinking something like that myself. Do you think Isana would mind if we made something for everyone?”

“Dunno,” Karin shrugged. “But she said multiple times that we should make ourselves at home. Plus, she’s amazingly nice and she gives out great hugs.”

“Is that what prompted this one?” Ayaka asked in amusement. “And what does that have anything to do with her letting us make breakfast?”

“I was just emphasizing how nice she is,” Karin smiled. “As for this, I just like hugging people. It feels good.”

“Well, thank you for it,” Ayaka replied. “It does feel nice. But can you let me down? I’d like to have some food done by the time Isana wakes up.”

“What about Sora?” Karin asked as she obliged.

“Let her sleep too,” Ayaka said, smiling warmly and tucking some of her brown curls behind an ear. Karin had never thought about it much before now, but Ayaka was really pretty and she found that she enjoyed looking at the slightly older girl. “This may sound a little insulting, but there’s just something about Sora that makes me want to dote on her.”

“Same here,” Karin grinned. “Now let’s head downstairs.”

Ayaka slid down off of the windowsill and Karin felt her eyes involuntarily watch her new sister’s lithe movements. Ayaka had always been a lot more graceful than any of the other girls and Karin liked watching her move. Lately that interest had been increasing and it never occurred to her to question why that was. It was just something nice she liked about Ayaka.

They descended back down to the kitchen and both of them stood silent in a moment of pure awe when they entered the room. The morning sun was streaming in through the many windows, including the large bay one and the forest scene outside was just as stunning as it had been when viewed from the second floor. The room, with the polished counters, gleamed in the sunlight. As Karin took it all in once again, she could see an appreciative smile on Ayaka’s lips. No doubt she was also enjoying the orderly cleanliness of the place as well.

“What should we make?” Karin eventually asked, breaking the moment.

Ayaka blinked and cocked her head thoughtfully. “I’m not really sure. We’ll have to see what she has. Can you look in that door over there, that’s probably the pantry Isana mentioned. I’ll look through the refrigerator.”

They parted briefly to inspect the food stores. After comparing their finds and dithering over complexity and time, they decided to keep things simple and make a pot of oatmeal along with some bacon. The bacon in particular was something they were both eager to try as it was a luxury the orphanage had been unwilling to purchase. Ayaka was known as one of the better cooks back in their old home, so Karin felt safe in letting her attempt to cook the new delicacy.

As they had hoped, it was a meal that was quickly prepared, and soon the delicious smell of the cooking bacon was filling the house.  Karin could feel her mouth-watering and even though she was trying to maintain her normal mature attitude, she could see that Ayaka was just as eager as she was to finally eat the stuff.

“Should I go and wake the others?” Karin asked excitedly when the bacon was spitting and popping and a nice crispy brown. The pot of oatmeal next to the meat was bubbling thickly.

“May as well,” Ayaka agreed. “It’ll only be a few minutes more.”

Leaving Ayaka to watch over the food, Karin made her way back to the stairs and bounded happily up them. Once upstairs Karin decided to wake Sora first since she knew that her youngest sister would enjoy helping her wake Isana up. Sora had taken immediately to Isana and it had been readily apparent how much Isana returned that feeling. It was a surprise then when Karin knocked on Sora’s door and got no reply at all.

Curious, she slowly opened the door and peeked inside. What she found was a completely dark room. There were no windows to provide some light, so Karin touched her hand to the wall and turned the magic dial so that the light crystal things lit up. What she found then was a completely empty room and a mussed bed that looked like no one had slept in it. Feeling confused, Karin wondered if maybe she had somehow passed Sora by going up the back stairway and Sora was already downstairs. Shrugging, she turned the lights back off and crossed over to Isana’s door.

This time she simply opened the door a little and stuck her head inside. Karin’s eyes widened when she took in the room.  Thick shaggy rugs lay over the floor everywhere and the middle of the room was taken over by the most massive bed she had ever seen.  The big dresser against one wall and a few other tables seemed to be crowded aside by the bed. Since it was on the east side of the house, the sun was bright and warm here, filling the space. Karin slid slowly into the room and marveled at the random collection of blankets and pillows covering the bed.

Once she was closer she found Isana’s face by her snow-white hair and she also found where Sora had gotten to. The two of them were snuggled close together and Karin had to smile at the peaceful scene. It looked so inviting that she was extremely tempted to join them. But breakfast was waiting and a fresh whiff of bacon in the air made her tummy rumble.

She made her way to the right side of the bed and to her great amusement the bed was so huge that she couldn’t get near Isana from the side. Since she was more than willing to see how this weird bed felt, she climbed up onto it and crawled toward its occupants. They were both lying on their sides with Sora’s back to Isana’s front, so Karin reached for the bump where Isana’s shoulder had to be.

“Isana,” she whispered gently. “Sora. Do you guys want some breakfast?”

“Hmmmmwa?” Isana mumbled something and suddenly a slim, naked arm snaked up and Karin yelped in surprise as she was pulled downward.

***

Isana jerked awake as a soft, girlish sound of shock burst out near her ears and a large, warm something landed on top of her. Sora was also jolted into wakefulness and both their eyes locked onto the person that Isana realized she had pulled onto them unconsciously.

“Oh holy damn!” Isana swore, seeing Karin’s face near her own. “Are you both alright?”

“Hehe, yeah,” Karin laughed, pulling herself upright again. From the positioning, this had her straddling both her and Sora’s legs. “Sorry, I was just trying to see if you guys wanted some breakfast, me and Ayaka made some.”

“I’d love some,” Isana smiled up at her. Then she looked into Sora’s face which was only inches from her own. “Are you okay too Sora?”

“I’m fine,” Sora replied with her own smile. “I was just surprised. Thanks for making food, Karin.”

Karin shrugged and colored a little. “Ayaka’s doing most of the hard work. I just stirred the oatmeal. Did you sleep here the whole night?”

Sora’s face turned a bit pinker and Isana had to smile. “I was fine with it Karin,” Isana answered for her. “As you can see, I have a huge bed.”

It was then Isana realized where her other hand was. Since they had turned a little and were now facing each other, her lower hand was wrapped around and holding onto a pleasantly warm and soft place. Namely Sora’s round little butt, and from the skin contact and how far inside her fingers were, Sora wasn’t wearing any panties. Once she realized this, her hand unconsciously gave that butt a soft squeeze. Sora made a sighing sound but otherwise said nothing about it except to smile a little more. Isana felt an aroused heat wash over her and it was all she could do not to give Sora’s happy lips a morning kiss. When Karin leaned in curiously, Isana wanted to kiss her too. That reaction meant they needed to have their little talk very soon.

“Can you let us get up?” Isana asked Karin jokingly. “I need to make a quick stop before I eat.”

“Sure,” Karin replied, sliding herself off to one side. Isana saw she was wearing another skirt and a shirt that was cut low and showed off a lot of nice skin as well as Karin’s wings. Isana then loosened her grip on Sora’s more than pleasant anatomy and nudged the girl with a hip. Sora got the hint and squirreled her way up and out of the covers. The two girls descended to the floor as Isana squirmed her own way clear. Then she heard a pair of gasps. She’d forgotten she was naked.

“Sorry,” she said, giving both of the staring girls an apologetic smile and sat on the edge of the bed. “I can’t stand wearing clothes in bed. I hope this doesn’t bother you.”

“Ah…not at all,” Karin mumbled, not taking her eyes off of Isana’s slim form. Isana smiled wider in understanding. Karin too was a witch and had to be feeling the urges; even though her magic had yet to awaken on its own. “You’re very pretty.”

“Thank you, Karin,” Isana replied happily.

“I don’t mind either,” Sora quickly added, not moving her gaze. Then her eyes flicked up to Isana’s, reddened and her ears drooped down with embarrassment.

“Sora, it’s not that big a deal if you look at me naked,” Isana laughed gently. “Why would I mind this after you slept against me the whole night?”

Sora perked back up at this and Isana saw an amused glint to Karin’s eyes. Chuckling silently to herself, Isana rose to her feet and arched her back to stretch it. She knew she was flaunting herself, but it was very much a part of her nature to do so in front of girls she was attracted to, and had they looked, both girls would have seen her tail tip twitching in a happy motion.

“Sora,” she said, glancing at the girl. “Why don’t you go get dressed while I take care of my business? Karin, go on down and tell Ayaka we’ll be right there. That bacon smells too good to miss.”

“Yeah it does,” Karin sighed wistfully. Then she playfully nudged Sora who was sniffing the air thoughtfully. “Come on Sora, Ayaka’s got to be nearly dying down there, smelling that and being forced to wait for us.”

The two girls left with Karin getting more a few giggles out of the younger girl as they went. Once they were gone, Isana made her way into her spacious bathroom and did her business quickly. She was extremely tempted to make use of her fingers to scratch a certain itch, but she normally got really noisy and she didn’t want the girls to walk in on that just yet, at least not until she explained everything to them. After washing her face, she dressed quickly into a pair of loose shorts and a sleeveless shirt.

As she exited the room, the smell of the cooking food grew stronger and she let her stomach guide her downstairs. When she entered the kitchen Sora was seated at one of the island stools, happily watching a conversation between Karin and Ayaka who stood very close by the stove. The two older girls spotted her first and they separated with Ayaka’s cheeks reddening. Isana couldn’t help the amused smirk that bloomed on her lips and as she sat down next to a visibly pleased Sora, then she greeted the young teen.

“Morning Ayaka, Karin tells me you’ve been busy cooking breakfast for us all.”

“We just wanted to do something nice to thank you for taking us in,” Ayaka answered as she picked up a spatula and smoothly removed finished slices of bacon from a pan and onto a plate. She had made an impressive pile of it.

“You’re welcome then,” Isana replied appreciably. “I take it that Karin told you about upstairs since you won’t look at me?”

“What?!” Ayaka jerked and finally looked straight at her. Karin looked worried.

“It’s alright,” Isana laughed gently. “I don’t mind.  Relax. I told you last night that I don’t want any of you to be embarrassed around me. That includes seeing me naked.”

“Why were you naked?” Ayaka asked, now sounding much more curious than worried.

“I hate wearing clothes in bed,” Isana said with a casual shrug. “It’s no big deal.”

“She’s right,” Karin said, cocking her head as she thought of something. “I don’t wear a shirt at night because of my wings, so I’m almost naked too.”

“See,” Isana said. “Now come on, I want to eat the food you two made.”

“Sure,” Ayaka replied, perking up considerably.

Since there were only three stools at the island, Isana had them move everything to the breakfast nook where she slid all the way inside the booth. Sora quickly claimed the seat on one side of her and Ayaka slid in on the other side since Karin volunteered to bring over the food and stuff. Both the oatmeal and the bacon tasted wonderful and all three girls exclaimed over the meat. She found out then that they’d never had it before.

Throughout the meal, Isana kept the conversation light and asked how they’d liked their first night in their new home. On this subject, Ayaka was particularly joyful. She spent at least forty minutes just describing what she saw outside her window earlier with a few comments from Karin thrown in. She did see all three of them giving her glancing looks, but whenever she caught them at it she made sure to smile reassuringly, and eventually, even Ayaka started to smile back. When the meal was finished, Sora and Karin volunteered to wash up. That left just Isana and Ayaka still sitting together.

“Do you guys want to continue the house tour?” Isana asked them as she watched the two girls cleaning the dishes. Ayaka had wondered what her tail felt like so she was feeling pretty good as the girl stroked her furry appendage. Ayaka seemed to like doing it so neither of them had stopped it yet. “Or did you guys already look around everything down here

“Just the pantry,” Karin answered. “You’ve got enough dry and canned food in there to feed a small army!”

“A small army or three growing girls?” Isana replied with a laugh. “Claire’s been telling me that nothing eats more food than a group of teenagers. How old are you girls anyway? I never did ask.”

“I’m the oldest,” Ayaka volunteered. “I just turned fourteen last month on the tenth.”

“Thirteen,” Karin said with a smile. “I’m only six months younger than Ayaka, but she’s definitely the older, more mature sister of the three of us.”

“I’m twelve now,” Sora answered proudly. Karin had put her in charge of drying and her small hands were deft with a towel. “My birthday isn’t until December though.”

“Nice,” Isana nodded. “If someone didn’t tell you already, I’m twenty-five and my birthday is in March. ”

Once the dishes were done, they separated once again at Isana’s urging to take showers and freshen up for the day. Since she had already taken one, Ayaka went into the living room to wait for everyone else. When Isana was finished with her very quick shower and returned, she found the girl staring out into the peaceful forest outside while sitting with legs curled up on her big comfy couch. It was older than she was and had been reupholstered several times, but it was always anyone’s favorite seat. Not really knowing why Isana sat right behind Ayaka and pulled the girl back into her arms and against her chest. Ayaka let her do so without complaint and didn’t even object when Isana leaned forward to rub their cheeks together and fold them into a hug.

“You really do have a lot of cat-like behaviors,” Ayaka commented after a few minutes passed. She sounded amused. “What does the cheek rubbing mean? You’ve done it with all of us I think.”

“You know how cats mark things as theirs?” Ayaka nodded. “Well I, like most cats, have small scent glands near there. It secretes into the oils of my skin and when I rub something it leaves a scent marker I can pick up on. It marks something or someone as mine to any other creature that can smell it.”

“Well, I can smell it too,” Ayaka laughed amusedly. “I have a sensitive nose.”

“I can try not to do it to you if you don’t like it,” Isana said, frowning.

“No, I like it actually,” Ayaka replied and settled even deeper into the hug. “It made it more peaceful somehow being able to smell you on me when I went to sleep last night. It’s like having you with me even when you’re not there. I was just curious. Thanks for explaining it.”

“No problem,” Isana said affectionately. “I’m perfectly comfortable with explaining anything about me you want.  Everything here is probably new and weird, so if you want to know something, just ask.”

“You’re surprisingly nice,” Ayaka replied. “I really didn’t know what to expect when they said they had found us a place to live and I half expected it to be like the orphanage all over again, except smaller. But it’s not like that at all. This place is wonderful and I could never have sat and relaxed like this with anyone there. It just makes me wonder if there’s a catch to it all or something that I haven’t seen yet.”

“There’s no catch,” Isana assured her quickly. “You girls are an unexpected blessing to me as well. Before now, I actually liked living alone. Now I have you three to cuddle with and I think I’m gonna love it.”

“I’m sensing a ‘but’ in there somewhere,” Ayaka laughed. “What is it? It can’t be that bad right?”

“No, it’s not bad at all really,” Isana admitted. She was going to have to have this talk with all the girls, but Ayaka wanted to know and it made sense for the older and more mature girl to know what was going on. “It just has to do with the nature of witches and any girls that live with and around them.”

“Arbor has quite a few witches,” Ayaka commented. “I’ve never heard anything bad about them.”

“Like I said, it’s not bad, just different,” Isana replied and made sure she still heard both Sora’s and Karin’s showers were still running. “Did you notice how fascinated both Sora and Karin were about seeing me naked?”

“I did,” Ayaka replied, her cheeks reddening. Her voice however remained steady. “I also noticed that they have both started touching people a lot more than they used to. Sora used to be too shy, but now she always wants to be near you. Is that all part of it?”

“Yes,” Isana admitted and smiled. “That’s very observant. They are doing that because they, like me, are witches. All sorts of people can use magic and manipulate it in different ways, but witches and the exceedingly rare male sorcerers are born with it in their blood. We will use magic whether we like it or not. But it comes with a few side effects.”

“The touching stuff?” Ayaka guessed.

“Yep,” Isana agreed. “That comes from an extremely powerful inclination in witches to be around and become close to other women and girls; especially if they too are witches. Witches also have an overly active sex drive and a libido you wouldn’t believe.  What Sora and Karin are feeling is the beginning seeds of that and the instincts that come with it. They are probably too young and sheltered to realize that what they are feeling is strong sexual attraction.”

“You don’t think I’m too young to understand?” Ayaka said quietly as she digested what she’d been told.

“You have a very clear head for a girl your age,” Isana chuckled and tightened the hug again. “You had the observation skills to notice things were different, so I told you why.”

“So what you’re saying is that witches want to be with other girls?” Ayaka asked thoughtfully. “And that this is only the start for those two? What about you?”

“Me too,” Isana admitted freely. “My body is screaming at me about it all the time. I have an extremely strong desire for all three of you, but unlike them I know what it is and can ignore it, despite how uncomfortable and disappointing that feels. It helps though when I hold you like this. The other two are going to be showing stronger signs of this and I suspect that Karin at least will figure out soon what it is she suddenly wants from us. I was planning on having a small talk about it with all of you to explain it. But you just happened to hit on the subject early.”

“Lucky me,” Ayaka chuckled. “So what usually happens in a situation like this?”

“Usually,” Isana said carefully, “the people involved just allow things to happen naturally. It’s the reason why if you ask or check, most witches prefer to live in group homes with others like them or with women. It’s also the origin of covens.”

Ayaka sat silent for a long moment and in the silence they heard one of the showers shut off. Isana knew from her familiarity with the house that it was Sora’s bathroom. “You mean the witches and women that live with them just have sex with each other?” Ayaka eventually asked.

“Yes,” Isana answered honestly. “I’m not saying that such houses are constantly running orgies or something. Witch households almost always develop extremely tight bonds with their members, regardless of age. Rebecca and Maya both knew that when they asked me to take you guys in. You just got lucky that I’m still a sexy young lady and not some old biddy.”

“Sexy lady huh?” Ayaka barked a laugh. “That’s some opinion you have of yourself, but I get what you’re saying. It could have been worse, right?”

“Right, for instance, the three of you could have been separated completely where none of you would have someone you knew. This way you and the other girls know each other and have at least that connection. Plus, I can guarantee you that I will never, ever, force my attentions on you or the others. If you don’t want to have sex with anyone, you don’t have to.”

“But I can tell from your tone that it will be very hard to resist doing so and that you think I’d be missing out,” Ayaka’s wry amusement burst out into clear laughter. Ayaka squirmed around in the seat until they sat facing each other and Ayaka looked very pleased. “Thanks for explaining all of this to me like an adult. I know you probably could have just let things happen as they would, but I’m glad I know what will be going on around here soon. I think we’re actually pretty lucky to have ended up here.”

Isana blinked. “So, you’re not upset by it at all?”

“From what you just told me, getting upset about it would be about as useful as screaming at a tornado,” Ayaka smirked. “I admit that I think it’s really weird and knowing that Karin and Sora are going to start coming onto me is even more so, but now at least I’ll have a clue and I won’t accidentally hurt their feelings. Plus it explains why Karin was hugging me so much and why Sora has attached to you. When will you tell them?”

“I’m not sure,” Isana frowned. “It has to be soon though. Karin is old enough and smart enough to work out that she’s sexually attracted to everyone in the house and I have no idea where that will lead her. Sora on the other hand probably has no idea why she is so fascinated by me and why she enjoyed sleeping with me so much.  What do you think? You’ve known them longer than I have.”

“Isana, none of us were very close when we lived at the orphanage,” Ayaka laughed. “I only saw Karin at meal times because we had different friends and Sora mostly kept to herself. Sora is much too quiet a person to have survived there much longer I think. But you’re probably right about Karin; she’ll have it worked out pretty soon. It’s embarrassing, but I was actually surprised when I found out how smart she is a couple of years ago. So I would say to tell them as soon as possible for Sora’s sake more than Karin’s.”

Isana sighed heavily. “Then I suppose I may as well do it today. Thanks for being so understanding about all this.”

“Heh, from what you described, I thought it all sounded kind of nice,” Ayaka smiled pleasantly. “And I was quite enjoying you holding me just now, just so you know.”

“Whoa! Cool room!” they both turned and sat normally on the couch as Karin and Sora walked in together. Sora’s expressive ears were flicking about with interest, and it didn’t pass Ayaka’s notice that Karin had her arm wrapped casually around the younger girl.

Isana was, however, very proud of her living room. Like her bedroom, she had put it together for the purpose of comfort first and visual appeal second. That meant that nothing in the room really matched well, but by coincidence, it did have a sort of eclectic charm.

Aside from the big sofa on which she sat, Isana had kept her adoptive mother’s antique coffee table as a centerpiece. It was a massive thing that she could never have moved except with magic or a team of four burly men. There was a second sofa across from the one she sat on that was made of a red material and then two lounge chairs on either end of the sofas. The sofa Isana and Ayaka sat on ran along one outside wall that was lined with windows. The end wall of the rectangular space was taken up by a large, obviously well-used fireplace made of river stones. The only entrances to the room led to the dining room and the smaller door that led to the study/library.

As they entered, Karin wriggled her toes into the now ubiquitous heavy shag rug and it was plainly obvious that she liked it.  Isana liked to do the same thing, but what she liked about this room was that on really warm days she could lie out and take naps on that rug.

“Thank you, Karin,” Isana said by way of greeting. “I’m not much of a decorator, but it is comfy here.”

“The shower was even better though,” Karin said. She and Sora went around the second couch and sat in it across from them. “Even Sora took a long one.”

“I’ve never been in a shower before,” Sora said, defending herself. “And you took longer than I did.”

“Very true,” Karin chuckled in admission. “But it was nice right?”

“It was,” Sora agreed. “The water stayed nice and hot.”

“So, when does the tour start back up?” Karin asked.

“Right now if you like,” Isana answered.

Since there was only the first floor and the basement left to show the girls, the tour was a fairly quick one. Ayaka and Sora were both a little impressed by the collection of books she had in her library and both of them wore smiles when they left because Isana happily told them they could read whatever they wanted out of it. The really dangerous magic books were kept in a lockable case in the basement, so nothing in them would cause undue harm.  The girls were rather disappointed though when she teasingly decided to save her special room until later and they walked right past its door.

They were also excited and disappointed when she took them down into the basement. The first half of the large underground space was storage and utilities. Here she kept a large sundry of things and trying to explain them all would have taken days. Instead, she told them they were free to explore it all as long as they didn’t break anything too expensive. The back half of the basement was the space she reserved for her lab.

Every witch and competent magic-user had a lab or a space like it. It was where she performed major workings of magic and created magical concoctions. On one side of the lab she had carved and then inlaid with a special alloy, a ten-foot magical circle with extremely intricate glyphs. If she was doing anything really dangerous, she did it inside there. The girls were especially fascinated by the shelves she kept of ingredients and components she used in magical workings or mixtures. The pride of this collection was the ever-burning phoenix feather she kept in a protective glass enclosure.

Since it was only early afternoon still when she was finished showing off the house, Isana decided to show her girls the other interesting location on her property.

“Why do we need to go there in the truck if it’s on your property?” Karin asked as they all climbed into the vehicle.

“Because, by the time my mother and grandmother before her were done, the property grew to over fifteen square miles,” Isana answered with an amused smile. “You can walk if you want to, but we’re headed to the far northern part. That’s a five-mile trek, not including the hills and valleys.”

“Oh, then the truck is just fine,” Karin smiled, buckling in for emphasis.

“How do you own so much land?” Ayaka asked. She was sitting in the back with Sora this time.

“It started with my great-something grandfather,” Isana replied, starting up the truck and opening the garage door with a hand wave of magic. “After the Fall, he saw a bunch of empty land laying around with no ownership claims on them anymore and he began snatching them up. At first, they were very small bites and when the local governments settled down, they hadn’t realized he’d amassed so much. Then it just continued that way for a couple of generations until it reached its present size. Now it’s like owning my own private forest preserve.”

“The forest covers over half the state now,” Karin pointed out.

“And I own this small chunk of it,” Isana grinned. She turned the truck to a continuation of the long driveway they’d come up the night before. It kept on going, deeper into the dense woods. Since it was much less frequently traveled, it was also far bumpier and a little overgrown in places.

“Is the forest safe to walk around in?” Ayaka asked. She had her window rolled down and was looking out it as the fresh, clean air blew into the vehicle.

“If you’re careful and you don’t head into it alone, or at night,” Isana answered. “There are a few of the newer magical creatures about, but my wards keep them clear of the immediate area around the house. There are bears around this area and I’ve heard and seen the tracks of a pack of wolves. The wolves would be a lot more dangerous at night than they are by day. Bears though won’t bother you much as long as you don’t bother them or their young and the wolves usually steer clear of noisy humans. But I’ll give you each a few protective charms anyways. That way I’ll feel calmer about you roaming around.”

Since it was a relatively short drive through the rough landscape of the forest, they arrived at their destination quickly. The first sign they had arrived was that they popped out of the forest into a clearing that was almost blindingly bright from the now direct sunlight. The clearing was a very large oblong area that was just over a hundred yards long and ran right up to the shoreline of a substantial lake.

“Whoa, there’s a lake here?” Karin asked unnecessarily as all three girls had seen it now.

“Actually, there are quite a few lakes hidden inside the forest now,” Isana informed them. “This one was man-made originally, but even though the dam that caused it to form is long gone, it still remains.”

“What are all these plants growing all over the place?” Sora asked as they drove past a large plot of tomato plants.

“It’s a huge produce garden,” Ayaka answered with understanding in her voice. “I wondered why you had so much canned food and jars.  You grow it here.”

“Yep,” Isana affirmed with a proud smile. “I cheat a lot by using magic to keep pests and critters away from it all, but it gives me a nice side income. Usually, I hire a few teenagers from town that want some spending money and they help me harvest it all periodically and then I sell what I don’t eat to a grocer. A lot of people that live out in the boonies like me grow food to help out the town, and to make a little extra money, and to have great tasting fresh produce. On the other side of the lake, there is a really nice guy with apple and cherry orchards. You wouldn’t believe how much money he makes.”

“It looks like a lot of work,” Karin commented warily as the truck rolled to a stop in front of a large utility shed.

“It’s not that bad,” Isana laughed. “Remember, I cheat.”

Isana climbed out of the truck and once she was on the ground she placed two fingers into her mouth and blew out a deafening whistle that echoed oddly over the waters of the lake. Once it died down, Isana cupped her hand around her mouth and yelled “Shasta!”

When the girls joined her they were looking at her very oddly and she didn’t really blame them. She knew how she appeared. But before any of them could ask a question, thousands of small balls of light lifted up all around them in the fields and began to fly around in agitation. Isana smiled at the confusion this caused the girls and waited for the brighter yellow ball that zipped in their direction.

It halted directly in front of Isana’s face and the light dimmed slightly to reveal a tiny, but proportionally plump, naked woman with vividly painted body art and a pair of nearly invisible dragonfly wings.

“Oiyo, Isana, what are you doin’, callin’ me with strange whelplings about you?” the tiny person asked in an angry huff.

“Shasta, these girls are now family to me. They will be living in my home and will have free roam of my property. I called to you so that you would know them and so your clan would not cause them harm.”

“A family now, Isana?” Shasta said in a long string of chuckles. “Two are wee witchlings and the third, oh, a daughter of the earth, what a strange lot you show me.”

Isana smiled at the expressions on the girl’s faces, but it was Sora who spoke first.

“Are you a real fairy?” Sora asked, clearly amazed and impressed.

“Ach! She doesn’t believe I’m real!” Shasta crowed dramatically. Then she clutched a hand to her chest and fell backwards down to the grass as her light dimmed. Sora and the others gasped in surprise and the beginnings of horror.

“Shasta,” Isana growled warningly. The fairy’s light gleamed bright again and then the little person zipped up into the air with a cackle of laughter. Little squeaks of amusement chorused around them from the multitude of other fairies.

“Ahahaha, no one teaches the young ones the classics anymore,” Shasta laughed and then bowed expressively towards Sora. “Aye, tis a fairy I am and a leader of this fine clan, little elf blood witchling. By way of a bargain, the Lady Isana gives us safe and home and a portion of vittles. We tend the green things and make them grow. Honor and privilege and well met.”

“Oh, thank—” Ayaka cut off sharply when Isana gestured quickly to her.

“Sorry,” Isana apologized to the girl. “But it’s never a good idea to thank a fey creature. Some will take it to mean you owe them a debt. Shasta is a well behaved fairy, but if you meet others like her, it would be very bad to say that.”

“Okay,” Ayaka said thoughtfully. “Then I am honored as well, and we are well met.”

“O-ho,” Shasta cackled. “A smart and quick-minded one is the Mother born girl. It really is a wonderfully strange day to meet a silver one, a dragon brood and one like this one. I will watch over them, Isana, never fear. The clan is always in your service. Good day to ye!”

With that Shasta zipped away and all of the floating balls of light flew back down to the various plants they were charged with tending. When Isana turned, it seemed none of the girls knew quite what to make of what just happened.

“Well, now you’ve met Shasta and the real secret behind my lovely garden,” Isana laughed. “She didn’t mean any insult by the names she called you, she just has that odd manner of speech.”

“She said they serve you, though,” Karin said wonderingly.

“We made a bargain many years ago,” Isana answered. “After I saved some of them during a particularly bad storm, I agreed to let them live within my protective warding for as long as they maintained the gardens. They also have permission to eat a small portion of what is grown. It’s a win for both sides.”

“I liked her,” Sora decided. “How many of them live here?”

“No idea,” Isana answered. “Every year a small group of them leave to found their own clans; yet whenever I come down here, there are always at least several hundred of them.”

Karin wandered away a little towards the lake. Since it wasn’t a naturally made lake, there wasn’t much sand on the shoreline that comes with the inevitable erosion on an older body of water.  Instead it was mostly mud except for a small cleared area where Isana had added her own sand. Isana knew what question was coming next.

“Can we swim in the water?” Karin asked, just as Isana knew she would. In answer, Isana approached the shore and grabbed a rope that was staked to the ground near the small beach and trailed into the water after a meter or so, a small object came out of the water with the rope tied around it. What it was a glass ring with a bulge on one side. The glass bulge currently had a green middle.

“See this,” the girls nodded. “Whenever you want to swim you have to check this. I have some very strong wards protecting this little beach, but they wear down fast. If you pull this out and it’s red, that means the ward has failed and whatever new little creatures live in this lake can get to you. You’ll know if it fails while you’re in the water because this thing will send out a really bright pulse of light and a small shock to stun anything that might be nearby so you can get out. The wards only extend out about twenty feet so don’t go any further than that.”

“Okay, so maybe swimming doesn’t seem like such a great idea,” Karin laughed a little darkly. Both Sora and Ayaka were looking at the placid water warily.

“What lives in the lake?” Sora asked after a moment.

“I have no idea actually,” Isana admitted. “But after the Fall, some really nasty things have taken up residence in lakes, rivers and oceans. I tried quite a few searching spells on this lake and all I can tell you is that something large does live in it now and my wards have been shattered three times. I swim occasionally when the mood strikes, but I’m always very careful about it.”

“I think I can skip on the lake then,” Ayaka said wryly. I’m fine with just the forest, the wonderful house, and the gardens.”

“Same here,” Sora agreed. She gave the water a pointed look and took a deliberate step away from it.

From there they spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon wandering around the gardens and in the woods around them. The girls were eager to explore everything and when they drove back up to the house, they explored around that too. Isana subtly kept them away from the north side of the house so they wouldn’t see her secret room and spoil the surprise. She suspected that Ayaka caught onto the ruse about mid-afternoon, but she just smiled and took the lead on their wandering trek.

On to Chapter Four!

 

5 Comments on Learning Phase, Chapter 3

  1. Lakeisha says:

    I love this story! Can’t wait to see the next chapter❤️💕

  2. David says:

    What an interesting story line, Nuit du Loup! I love the different twist to this story and the build up adds to my curiosity to how this story is going to play out. Looking forward to the next and future chapters and see how this develops.

  3. kacey says:

    It gets ALOT better!!! 😊

  4. Kelli Lake says:

    I’m enjoying the story a lot. I’m sure there are many creative folks reading the wonderful stories on this site. Suggestion:: Maybe someone blessed with artistic ability could draw what Isana and the 3 girls look like in their minds eye, and send the pictures to Nuit de Loup. If Nuit approves, share the art work with her fans. Just a thought,

  5. Mukhtar says:

    One of my favourite authors. Nice to read your work again. The mix of romance, enthralling plot, and fascinating characters keeps me entertained. Stay well.

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