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Triple Tickle
by Sablesword
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© Copyright 2013 - Sablesword - Used by permission
Storycodes: MF+/f+; captives; bond; chains; stocks; punish; tickle; fetters; machine; torment; tease; nonhuman; reluct; X
jpn
Triple Tickle Sablesword MF+/f+; captives; bond; chains; stocks; punish; tickle; fetters; machine; torment; tease; nonhuman; reluct; X
 

The three halfling women standing in the courtroom were as different as three young halfling females could possibly be. They were all short, of course, with round faces; plump, big-breasted butterballs who were only the slightest bit over half the height of human women. They were all barefoot, with hair growing from the tops of their feet as thickly as from the tops of their heads. And they were all thirty-three or older, since only halflings who had ‘come of age’ were allowed in the predominantly human city of Gilderhaven.

But Heather Merryhill, on one end of the prisoners’ chain, had fair skin, wide eyes of pale blue, and wavy red-blonde hair on her head and feet. Her little turned-up nose seemed almost sharp, compared to those of the other two, and she wore a yellow dress-tunic of the plainest, cheapest cut.

Kimiko Nessonite, hands cuffed together at the center of the chain, had skin the color of honey and almond-shaped eyes of green-flecked brown. The black hair on her head fell straight as half a yard of rainwater, and an equally black mop of hair covered the tops of her feet. Her own dress-tunic was as plain and cheap as Heather’s, but dyed a dark gray.

Taletha Romar, locked in place on the other end of the chain, had hair as black as Kimiko’s, but curled in tight ringlets rather than falling straight. Her eyes were as black as her hair, her nut brown skin looked lighter only by comparison to her hair, and her face featured a broad and generous mouth beneath her flat little button of a nose. Her own cheap dress-tunic was a dull green.

“I find you guilty of attempted housebreaking,” the magistrate informed them after a very short trial. “You are sentenced to one week in the stocks, for five or fifty. Next case!” And the warder pulled on the chain, leading the three convicted prisoners away.

#

The next morning, Heather, Kimiko, and Taletha found themselves in a row once more, this time sitting on a bench with their ankles locked in heavy wooden stocks. Their hands were bound behind their backs with ropes, well-tied by the large and rather thuggish-looking Master of the Stocks. More ropes, wrapped around their torsos, secured them to the thick posts behind them and prevented them from falling over.

To one side sat a bucket, a half-dozen wooden utensils hanging from pegs, and a sandglass. The sandglass would run for ten minutes with each turning, providing the ‘five’ part of their sentence. Each day for a week, they’d be locked in the stocks, and any of the good citizens of Gilderhaven could pay five coppers, turn the glass, and tickle their helpless feet until the sand ran out. Halflings were uncommon in Gilderhaven, and Taletha knew from previous experience that they could later expect a crowd of humans eager for the experience of tickling three pairs of halfling feet.

Alternatively, a passer-by could pay fifty silver Guilders – the ‘fifty’ part of the sentence – and buy the captive’s indenture for a week. Normally this meant a week of drudgework, but it wasn’t unknown for an unscrupulous purchaser to take the captive from the city and reduce her to outright slavery. Being a halfling made this less likely, but it wasn’t impossible. Especially if the purchaser was someone like Baron von Federkeil.

Taletha brooded on these possibilities while listening to Heather worry about them – Heather always did her worrying aloud: “It’s a good thing Baron von Federkeil is off at his hunting lodge. His friends and his agents will all be there too. It was clever of Taletha to insist that we wait until they left, just in case we got caught like this. But do you think one of the citizens will buy our indenture, Kimiko?”

“I don’t know.” Kimiko, sitting in the middle, knew Heather as well as Taletha did – the three of them had been together for over a year now.

“It’s not very likely,” Heather said, and then let her voice fade unobtrusively. She wasn’t as ditzy as she sounded, and she had noticed the human woman approaching.

Taletha considered this woman, one of the few people present this early in the morning. She was thin, with a plain face half covered with large-lensed glasses. Her hair was long and brown, hanging in a braid down her back. Her skirt was a darker brown – common cloth – but her white blouse featured red embroidery.

“Wealthier than she looks,” Kimiko muttered.

“Look at her ring,” Heather whispered.

The woman came up to the stocks. Taletha’s feet felt suddenly vulnerable, as she remembered her previous experiences in the city’s stocks. She told herself to ignore that, and concentrated on getting a good look at the ring on the woman’s left hand. It was a heavy gold ring, a seal-ring of a Master of the Guild of Mechaniks. But how…?

“Three halflings,” the woman said, looking over the captives. “Perfect!” Taletha did not find her enthusiasm reassuring. Even less reassuring was the clink of coins as the woman dropped them into the bucket, and the confident way she selected a blunt-pronged wooden fork. “Have to be certain,” the human said, either to herself, or to the three halflings; Taletha couldn’t be sure which it was.

The woman first applied the fork to Heather’s right foot, making the fair-skinned halfling squeal and giggle. Then to her right foot, producing more laughter. Taletha waited in growing trepidation as the human shifted to apply her fork to Kimiko’s feet.

Halfling’s soles are tougher than those of most other people, but this does not make them less ticklish. It only requires that ticklers alter their techniques. Feathers and soft-bristled brushes don’t work all that well on halfling soles, but a stiffer implement, applied with the sort of firm stroke that a human would find soothing, or stinging, can produce unbearable tickle-sensations in halflings.

Kimiko writhed and made little squeaking noises, as the woman applied the fork with a casual grace. “Trying to hold it in just makes it worse, you know,” the human said, not unkindly. A clever twist of the fork made Kimiko gasp, and then the laughter started pouring out of her. “Better,” the human said as she ran the fork up and down one sole, and then the other. “Better.”

Then it was Taletha’s turn. Knowing what was to come made things worse. Not only did she have the immediate example of her two oath-sisters but she also had the memories of her previous times in the stocks. Once or twice the would-be ticklers had been inept, but most of the time the humans had been diabolically effective in figuring out just how to tickle her feet.

The human woman didn’t need to figure anything out, though. Taletha squealed as the wooden fork ran down her right sole, with just enough pressure to sent bolts of tickle-sensation shooting into her foot. Then the fork scrapped back and forth across her left sole, starting at the heel and working up toward the toes. Taletha giggled uncontrollably at what the woman was doing to her as she sat there, trapped and helpless.

“Perfect,” the human repeated. She hung the fork on its peg and then stepped purposefully off. Taletha craned her neck to watch.

“Now what?” Kimiko asked.

“It’s going to be a long day,” Heather said. “They usually don’t start this early. Where is she going, Taletha? Can you see?”

“It looks like… She’s speaking with the Master of the Stocks,” Taletha reported.

“Oh no,” Heather said. “We’re doomed. She’s going to buy our indenture.”

“A week of drudge-work or a week of tickling,” Kimiko said. “Flip a Guilder to see which is worse.” Taletha knew that the boredom in her voice was an act, but agreed with the truth of her statement.

A few minutes later, the three halfling women stood beside the stocks, their ankles released but their hands still tied behind their backs. They had also been leashed, with lines running from their bound wrists to the human woman’s hand.

“This is Mis- er Master Amanda,” the Stocks-Master corrected himself at a sharp glance from the woman. “Of the Guild of Mechaniks. She has bought your indenture, and she will have ways of making you regret it if you don’t behave for her.” He turned to the human woman, and managed to get her title out without stumbling, the second time around: “Master Amanda. These three wenches are Heather, Kimiko, and Taletha, convicted of attempted housebreaking. I hope you can get at least a little honest work from them.”

“I’ll manage,” Master Amanda smiled thinly. That smile, and the dry tone of voice, worried Taletha, but she and her two oath-sisters didn’t have any choice. Bound and leashed as they were, they had to go with the female mechanik-Master, and do as she commanded.

#

“Master Amanda wants you in the workroom now.” Will the apprentice was a beefy sort, a lad who had just reached his Score. At first, Taletha had though of him as a younger version of the thuggish Master of the Stocks. But the efficient way he had taken away their clothing for laundering and made them put on ankle-shackles in exchange had led her to suspect that a sharp mind lurked under his unhandsome exterior. Besides, Master Amanda was not the sort to tolerate stupidity in her apprentice. So when Kimiko looked a question at her, Taletha shook her head.

At least their cooperation had gained them a bucket of wash-water and a bowl of soup, Taletha thought as they walked slowly to the workroom, hobbled by their ankle-chains. Whatever drudgery they faced, they’d face without being muddy and hungry as well.

Will pointed them to a set of three wooden stools, and they sat. Master Amanda came up to them. “How do you intend to keep them there, Will?” she asked. The apprentice considered for a moment, and then went to a workbench, one of the half-dozen around the walls of the room. He came back with three hand-bells, giving one to each of the halflings. “Ring this once every two breaths,” he ordered.

“Clever,” Heather muttered as she rang her bell. Taletha had to agree. If she or her oath-sisters did anything other than sit and ring their bells, the two humans would know at once. Sneaking off, or even attempting to pick the locks on their shackles, would be impossible, Taletha thought gloomily. Apparently, Master Amanda agreed with this assessment, since she gave a satisfied nod and led her apprentice to the… machine in the center of the workroom.

This device was roughly triangular, three yards on each side and two yards high. It had a framework of metal bars, to which were attached gears and toothed ratchets. Standing up on top of the mechanism were three dials The thing also had attachments to let it be powered by the spinning pulleys and belts that hung from the ceiling, and cables to let it be controlled by the levers set on the one workbench-free wall.

“So what does it do?” Heather asked quietly between rings of her bell.

“Don’t know,” Kimiko answered after giving her own bell a ring. Taletha shrugged as well, but a horrible suspicion started to rise inside her as she watched the two humans work.

They were attaching brushes, strips of fur, and feathers to the various moving parts, and fastening buckled straps to the fixed framework. “Oh no,” Taletha whispered as her suspicion grew into a certainty.

“Oh no,” Kimiko echoed her, as she reached the same conclusion.

“It’s a tickle device,” Heather whispered. “We’re doomed.”

The two humans finished their work. Master Amanda then sent her apprentice off on errands. “I need you to go check the laundry and to fetch a quintal of oil,” she told him. “And ask the smithy if the new buckles are ready yet.”

“Yes, Master Amanda.” Will almost succeeded in keeping the disappointment from his voice. After he left the room, Amanda smiled and crooked a finger at Taletha. The dark halfling set down her hand bell, stood up, and hobbled over. Eyes closed, she allowed herself to be strapped down on a leather bench – one of three – set in the nest of machinery.

Taletha whimpered, as Master Amanda tightened the last strap and fastened the buckle.” It won’t kill you. It won’t even hurt.” the human woman chided.

“I know. Can’t you give us some scut cleaning work to do, instead?”

Master Amanda snorted softly, and Taletha heard her step away. The dusky-skinned halfling opened her eyes again to see the human woman lead Kimiko into the machine and strap her onto the second bench. Then Heather. As the buckles were fastened, the blonde halfling asked in her best innocent-ignorant voice: “Master Amanda, what does all this do?”

“Don’t play the fool; you know very well what this is,” Master Amanda told her. Then under Heather’s wide blue-eyed stare, she relented. “It’s a half-scale tickle-device. I have a commission to build a three-place Device for Baron von Federkeil, and this is my working scale model. I hadn’t expected to be able to test it with actual subjects in place, but you three are unlucky enough to be just the right size.”

“Thank you, Master Amanda, for taking the time to explain,” Heather said politely, keeping up her pretence of innocent cuteness. Kimiko and Taletha stayed carefully silent. They had both seen Heather wheedle out of some amazing fixes, through her pretended empty-headedness, and they didn’t want to queer her efforts here.

Not that it helped. Master Amanda shook her head in wry amusement. “You’re welcome,” she told the fair-skinned halfling. Then she looked over at the olive-complexioned Kimiko and the ebony Taletha. “You three do make a set. Prepare yourselves.” She left the Device, and Taletha watched her through gaps in the machinery as she walked to the control levers. She was suddenly aware of the brushes, feathers, and other tickle-implements hovering just a handspan away from her naked skin.

Master Amanda pulled a lever, and Taletha heard the creak and whir of the belts, pulleys, and gears of the Device, and saw the wheeled tickle-brushes begin to rotate. They came closer and closer. She heard Heather giggle, and Kimiko squeak with suppressed laughter as the tickle implements made contact against her oath sisters. Glancing over, she saw stiff-bristled brushes sawing against the soles of their feet. Heather laughed unselfconsciously, while Kimiko had her eyes screwed shut losing the fight to keep from giggling herself. Neither of the two seemed to notice the feathered belts moving in to brush against their sides.

Then Taletha squealed herself as a strip of fur ran briskly over the dark skin of her exposed and vulnerable belly. Laughter began to pour out of her as the fur pivoted away to make room for a pair of yarn puffballs. A pair of wooden forks ran up her soles, starting at her heels and moving swiftly to her toes before repeating the stroke. Again and again, sending the most diabolical tickle-sensations into her bare feet.

Taletha pulled against the straps holding her, but escape was impossible. Nor could she predict where the brushes and feathers and other lightly-stroking tickle-implements would strike next: On her legs, behind her knees, along her arms, down her sides… Stiffer implements scrubbed the tougher skin on the soles of her feet, sending in their own barrage of tickle-sensations.

Taletha heard the giggles of her two oath-sisters mix with her own laughter. From those sounds, she knew that Heather’s fair hide and Kimiko’s golden skin were both experiencing the same tickle treatment as her own dark body. The tickle-implements were colorblind, as they touched here and stroked there, and forced laughter from all three of the captive halflings.

Hearing the laughter of the other two only served to break down Taletha’s resistance to her own tickle-torment. She could tell, by the change in their laughter, when the round-pronged wooden forks ran especially rapidly over Heather’s soles, or when the soft-bristled brushes moved up and down the sides of Kimiko’s torso. And the sounds of that laughter served to draw Taletha’s attention back to her own tickle-treatment.

Then, after only a few minutes of activity, the Device grunched to a sudden stop. “Damn,” Master Amanda said into the silence. She pulled back three levers, and the various tickle-mechanisms pulled back from the three helpless halflings and locked into place. Taletha, shivering from the abrupt end of the tickling, saw the human enter the Device with a basket of tools and start to apply wrenches, files, and a hammer to the stubbornly stuck pieces of machinery.

Taletha found herself hoping that Master Amanda would hurry up and finish her repairs, and hastily took back that wish as foolish. Crazy, even. Still, she had to admit it was a big shock for the tickling to end with such startling suddenness. At last, however, Master Amanda gathered her tools again and returned to the control levers. The tickling started up, once more –

– and abruptly stopped, a few minutes later as the Device again grunched to a sudden halt. “Damn,” Master Amanda repeated. Taletha heard whimpers from Heather and Kimiko, and from herself, as well.

#

Kimiko finally gave up on the padlock and slipped her improvised lockpicks back into their hiding place. She wanted to blame her failure on the agonizing tickling that she and her oath-sisters had been through for the past four hours. But it hadn’t really been the tickling that had been so agonizing; it had been the sudden unexpected stops as the Device broke down. Besides, the padlock, like the locks on their ankle-shackles, were Guild Class One designs, and Kimiko might not have been able to pick them even under the best of conditions.

The three halflings were in an emptied storeroom. Will the apprentice had returned in time to bring them here, and to supply them with bedding, smocks, and a lunch of bread and cheese. He had also refastened the shackles on their ankles – and had run another long chain between their legs, fastening the ends with a padlock to a ring set in the floor. A skylight loomed invitingly overhead, but although they might manage to climb the walls, the chain would still stop them before they reached the ceiling.

“Giving up?” Taletha asked, from where she lay on a straw mat.

“Yes,” Kimiko admitted. “Do you want to give it a try?”

“No. As much as I hate to admit it, you’re better at locks and traps than I am. And as much I hat to admit it, that apprentice had a point when he told us to rest and recover for the next ‘testing’ session.”

“Why should we listen to him?” Heather asked from her own mat. “First, he’s male. Second, he’s human. And third, he’s serving Master Amanda. At least she’s female, but she’s also the one keeping up locked up.”

“What else can we do?” Taletha answered with a question of her own. “I can’t climb and sneak us out of here while wearing these,” she shifted her legs, making the chains clink. “Kimiko can’t open that padlock, and you can’t sweet-talk anyone when they’re not here. So we rest and recover and wait for our chance.”

Kimiko lay down on her own mat. After a time she said: “It wouldn’t be so bad if their demon-cursed Device worked. I mean, getting tickled in the stocks is just a hazard of being a Crafty Taker. But this…” She trailed off.

“It’s a shock and an agony when the damn thing suddenly stops.” Heather completed the thought. “It’s not even on purpose. The thing tickles, and it tickles very well.” Kimiko saw her shiver at the memory. “But the torment when it stops is an accident. I don’t think Master Amanda wants it; she’s not an Inquisitor. She’s trying to make it work without the sudden stops.”

“So she doesn’t mean to be mean,” Kimiko said. “What good does that do us?”

Another silence fell. Kimiko brooded. She had an idea, but she disliked it so much that she was going to let one of the others suggest it first. Time passed, and then Taletha said: “We could – Master Amanda might let us help fix the Device. Work out the flaws so that it doesn’t keep stopping.” Kimiko felt her lips twitch. Good old Taletha! Count on her to come up with the crazy ideas. But this idea… She drew in a breath to protest, and Heather beat her to it.

“Taletha,” the blonde halfling said. “That’s just not right. I admit, I had the same idea myself, but… Help build a tickle-device and then let it be used on us? That’s… just wrong.”

“All right, we’ll think of something else,” Taletha said. The three halflings fell silent, then dozed off.

#

They woke up at the sound of a key opening the door. “Time to go back to work,” Will announced. Kimiko watched as he knelt down by the padlock and undid it with a key hanging from around his neck. He gathered the chain, setting it out of the way, and held out his hand. “Lockpicks, please.”

“What lockpicks?” Kimiko asked innocently. Will just smiled. He looked a lot brighter and less thuggish when he smiled, Kimiko though. But he was still a male, and human, and one of the ones keeping her and her oath-sisters captive. She glanced at the other two. Heather nodded; Taletha shrugged. With a sigh, Kimiko pulled the lockpicks from their hiding place. “How?” she asked as she handed them over.

“Thank you,” Will said. “You scratched the faceplate. Let’s go, now.”

When they reached the workroom, Master Amanda pulled them directly into the Device, stripping them nude and strapping them in place. Kimiko clenched her teeth to keep from whimpering at the sight of the various tickle-implements hovering one and two handspans away from her now-vulnerable skin. She looked over at her oath-sisters, where similar implements hovered over Taletha’s dark body and Heather’s fair skin. And before their helpless soles. They wore tight expressions, and Kimiko knew they feared the same thing she did: Not the tickling, but the sudden, repeated, agonizing stop of the tickling when Master Amanda’s machine broke down.

Kimiko heard Master Amanda say something to Will, heard the apprentice leave the room. She glimpsed him, through the machinery, carrying a sub-assembly as he walked out the door. Then Master Amanda pulled a lever, and the tickle implements began to move.

Kimiko heard the gears creak, and felt stiff-bristled brushes start to scrub her soles, sending irresistible tickle-sensations into them. She started to giggle, and heard Taletha and Heather laughing as well. More tickle-implements, softer ones, moved in, touching her here and there and there – across her belly, down her legs, up her sides and arms. She tried to squirm away from the light, insistent touch, knowing it was impossible to do so, but unable to help herself any more than she could help laughing from the machine’s implacable tickle tickle tickle.

Soft fur slid slowly between her breasts and down her belly, and a knobby roller ran rapidly up and down her soles before withdrawing and then moving back in. It all tickled horribly. Wonderfully. Kimiko found herself wishing that it would keep going on. Madness. But she dreaded the lurching, agonizing stop.

The stop came. Kimiko started to moan, then bit it short. She saw Heather shivering, and heard Taletha drawing in deep, shuddering breaths in an attempt to regain control. The tickle-implements withdrew, and Master Amanda came into the Device once more, carrying her basket of tools. The human woman knelt and began to apply a wrench.

Heather spoke up: “Master Amanda, if, if we asked to help with the repairs, would you agree to let us? I’m not saying we would; I just want to know your answer so we can think about it.”

Kimiko held her peace. Like Taletha, she had heard Heather wheedle out some amazing agreements. All three halfling females knew how to wheedle, of course, but Heather was much better at it than the other two, just as Taletha was better at stealth and climbing, while Kimiko herself was better at dealing with locks and mechanical traps.

Master Amanda didn’t look up. “Of course,” she said. “It only makes sense for you to help work on the Device, in between tests. I know how it bothers you when the machinery suddenly stops, so you three, and I, all have a good reason to want it to keep going.”

Kimiko pressed her lips together, holding her words back. Taletha spoke up. “It’s not right. It’s just wrong to help improve a tickle-machine that will then be used against us.” Heather made a face at the other two halflings, pleading for them to keep silent, but Kimiko found she had to speak as well:

“How do you know what it’s like to be in a Device, when it lurches to a stop like this?” she asked. Master Amanda looked up at last, raising an eyebrow at her.

“You’re right, and I beg your pardon. I don’t know what it’s like when a Device suddenly stops; I’m just guessing.” She returned to adjusting the gearwork and pulleys.

The rest of the test session went in silence, other than for the creak and whir of the Device, the hysterical laughter as tickle-implements applied themselves to helpless halfling bodies, and the moans and whimpers when the machinery grunched to an agonizing stop. Which happened seven more times in the four-hour session. At the end, Will the Apprentice returned and escorted the exhausted halfling females back to their locked storeroom.

#

Heather Merryhill had to force herself, by an act of will, not to break down into useless hysterics when Will the Apprentice came for them on the morning of the third day. The second day had been like the first: A four hour session in the morning, with not-so-bad tickling episodes coming to an abrupt, agonizing halt, and Master Amanda working on the device before starting it up again. Then a four hour rest, followed by a second test session. Then stumbling back to the storeroom under Will’s watchful eye to recover for the next day. Today.

Once again, Heather found herself strapped into place on a leather bench, tickle-implements hovering one and two handspans from her naked skin. And from the soles of her helpless feet. Taletha and Kimiko were helpless on their own benches, and Master Amanda pulled the lever, starting the Device once again. As before, stiff brushes sent implacable tickle-sensations into Heather’s soles, and she found impossible to keep from laughing. Softer implements moved into touch and stroke legs, belly, sides, and arms, inflicting a further tickling that was impossible to avoid. It felt awful, and Heather wished that it would keep going for as long as possible.

The Device grunched to a halt, maybe, hopefully after running a little longer than it had the previous day. The machinery pulled the tickle-implements back, and Master Amanda entered once more to make repairs and adjustments. Heather considered, once again, making an offer to help, and once again held her tongue. Her oath-sisters were right: It was just wrong to help work on improving a tickle-device and then letting it be used on oneself.

Will the Apprentice had left again, Heather noticed. She wondered why he wasn’t here, helping Master Amanda with the Device. Then the human woman finished, gathered her tools, and left to set the Device in motion once again. Heather laughed helplessly as a wooly puffball spun and ran in circles around her belly-button, and as wooden nubs scrapped and rolled over the soles of her feet. More implements deployed to tickle the rest of her, and the pattern repeated. It was just different enough to keep her from becoming desensitized. Just different enough for the Device to grunch to a stop in the middle of the fourth cycle. Heather moaned at that sudden stop, and the implements withdrew to hover a short distance away. Master Amanda entered the machinery again for another round of adjustments before starting up the Device once more...

#

The four-hour rest was just enough to recover from the morning’s ordeal, and just enough to sharpen the dread of the second testing session. But Heather put on her mask of wide-eyed innocence when Will the Apprentice returned to lead them back to the Device.

“Sir,” Heather said. “I’ve noticed that you always leave before the tickle sessions start. Why is that?” She blinked her lashes at him.

“Master Amanda doesn’t want me to just sit there and ogle,” Will answered. “She always has something for me to do, and if I have to do work I’d rather not be distracted.”

“Oh.” A calculated pause. “But isn’t it, well, mean to ogle while the Device does – what it does?” Heather was aware of Taletha and Kimiko watching intently. Don’t mess me up, oath-sisters.

“I don’t think so,” Will said. “Neither do the female apprentices. There are three of them now, and they always show up to ogle when a new apprentice goes through his Ordeal.”

Heather put on her best begging smile, and Will went on to explain: “It’s the Guild Rule now: To be accepted as an apprentice one has to be within two years of one’s Score, and go through a tickle-ordeal in the Guild’s old Device. That was put into place a couple of years before I became an apprentice. Before then, they only used the Device on the applicants they wanted to discourage. In fact,” he grinned, “The story is that Master Amanda was the first one, back when she became an apprentice.”

“You mean Master Amanda was once put through tickling in a tickle device?” Taletha blurted out. Heather held her breath. She had wanted to ask that herself, but hadn’t quite dared.

“Yep,” Will grinned. “Not the one we’re working on, of course. The old Guild Device, one person, full sized. The old old Device, actually, if you understand what I mean. She helped Master Steven build the new old Device, about the time she became a journeyman. And then she had to test it. The Guildmasters wanted one male and one female for test subjects, and since she was the only female in the Guild at the time, well... But now we have to get going now.” He made shooing motions, herding them out of the storeroom and toward their next session.

In the workroom, Heather found herself once again strapped nude to the leather bench, with her two oath-sisters strapped down along with her. Once again she eyed warily the mechanical tickle-implements hovering about her. Once again, she heard the whir of machinery as Master Amanda pulled the lever and they went into motion. They descended, inflicting tickles on her, forcing laughter from her, and at the same time she heard Taletha and Kimiko giggling as their own tickle-implements went to work.

Stiff brushes and wooden devices pressed against tough halfling soles, proving once more that halfling soles could be tickled most effectively given the right touch. Softer brushes, feathers, and bits of fur moved in to tickle halfling bodies in other places, as well. Heather heard Taletha laugh as the Device tickled the dark halfling’s body. She heard Kimiko giggle as the golden-skinned halfling received various tickling touches. And she heard her own laughter as she endured what the Device did to her fair hide.

This tickling lasted longer than the previous ones, but still ended the same way: With the Device coming to a sudden halt. Heather shivered, once again, at the agony of it. She watched the implements pull back, heard Master Amanda bringing her basket of tools into the machine once again.

Master Amanda, who had had her own session in a Device, if not this one. According to the apprentice Will. Will was male, and human, and therefor not to be trusted, but Heather believed he had spoken truly, in this case. She exchanged glances with Taletha and Kimiko. The dark halfling nodded, and after a moment the almond-eyed halfling nodded as well. “Master Amanda,” Heather said. “We– we would like to help with your work on this Device. If you’ll let us.”

Amanda looked up, raising her eyebrows. “All three of you?”

“Yes, Master Amanda,” Taletha said.

“Yes, Master Amanda,” Kimiko echoed her after a moment.

“Good! And it’s about time.” Master Amanda stood and began to unbuckle the straps holding Taletha down. “You do realize, of course, that I’m going to keep you leg-shackled while you do your work.” Her glance sharpened, behind her glasses. “After all, you did only say you’d help with the work, not that you wouldn’t attempt to run away, afterwards.”

“I can’t complain about that, Master Amanda,” Taletha said.

“I can,” Heather said. “But it would be silly.” Master Amanda snorted softly.

A few minutes later, the three halflings, freed from their straps, but leg-shackled, were working to repair and modify the Device under Master Amanda’s directions. They oiled and adjusted, added a spring here, removed a pulley there, and adjusted tension elsewhere. It took over an hour, but at last the time came for another trial run. Reluctantly Heather stripped and allowed herself to be strapped back down. She waited, eyeing the tickle-implements in a new light as Taletha and Kimiko were strapped down on their own benches.

“And now,” Master Amanda said, “we will see how clever your fingers are when you’re doing honest work.”

“Is this honest work?” Heather asked.

“It would be if we were paid for it,” Taletha said.

“You are getting paid,” Master Amanda called from the control panel. “You’re getting room and board, and having your fines paid off by this.” Then she pulled the lever, and the tickle implements of the Device began to move around, and to move in.

Heather had wondered if working on the Device would make its actions seem like an attempt to tickle herself. When the stiff brushes began to scrub her feet, she learned that this wasn’t a problem. She giggled uncontrollably; the tickling this time was just as effective as it had been in previous sessions. Taletha and Kimiko were learning this as well, to judge by their own laughter as tickle-implements began touching them here and there on the legs and body, as well as combing the soles of their feet. Heather squirmed, unable to keep from making the futile attempt to avoid the tickling, even though she knew now, even better than before, just how futile that attempt was. She laughed as the tickle-sensations poured into her belly and her sides, up her arms and down her legs, and especially into the soles of her feet. And then they stopped.

This time however, the stop was not a grunching, agonizing halt, but a winding down. Heather sighed in relief. This wasn’t as good as a crafty burglary, but it was better than being tickled in the stocks – and much better than when the Device had grunched to an agonizing, mind-shattering halt. “Time for some more honest work,” Master Amanda said cheerfully as she brought her basket of tools down into the machinery.

#

It was the sixth day, and Taletha waited to be strapped down in the Device for what was likely to be the last time. Yesterday, the tickling machinery had slowed down only twice, and had not come to a stop at all before Master Amanda ended the session. Today, the final improvements they had made should let the machinery work without any hitches at all. And tomorrow would be the seventh day of their indenture, a day traditionally allowed off for good behavior. Taletha though Master Amanda would allow that. She was female after all, even if she was also a human.

But for now, Taletha stripped to her nut-brown skin and lay down on the now-familiar bench. Heather and Kimiko were already bound helplessly in place, and it took only a minute for Master Amanda to make Taletha helpless as well. The familiar tickle-implements hovered one and two handspans away. Through the machinery, Taletha saw Master Amanda reach the control panel and pull the lever that started those implements in motion.

Gears and pulleys whirred, and furred and feathered wheels began to spin. Brushes of both the stiff- and soft-bristled variety moved into play. Taletha laughed – couldn’t keep from laughing – as knobby wooden rollers ran up and down the soles of her feet. She heard Heather and Kimiko giggling as well as their own feet had stiff brushes and blunt-toothed combs applied. Softer devices swung down on levered arms to tease naked skin on belly, legs, arms. Between the breasts. In the bellybutton itself.

Sometimes the tickles were slow and meandering. Sometimes they were sharp and quick. Sometimes the Device would ignore her feet to concentrate on her sides, or around her knees, or on her belly or up and down her arms. Or all over the rest of her. Other times it would ignore the rest of her to focus on her soles, administering tickle sensations that seemed to penetrate and run up almost to her waist. But none of the Device’s implacable tickles could be avoided, no matter how much they provoked Taletha into squirming attempts to do so.

Taletha could count as the Device ran through its cycles, with just enough randomness to prevent her from becoming desensitized, and just enough predictability to heighten suspense. From the laughing, giggling, whimpering, and shrieking sounds they made, Taletha could also tell how the Device was tickle-teasing Heather and Kimiko. Taletha, after all, was making those very same noises herself.

An hour went past. Then another. The Device continued to function smoothly. Taletha, Heather, and Kimiko had done their work well, under Master Amanda’s directions. And now they were experiencing the results as the Device continued to touch and tease and tickle them. Stroking their sides. Brushing their soles. Wiggling between and around their breasts and across their bellies. Sawing softly the spaces between their toes. It wasn’t quite right to say that they were suffering from their good work, but it wasn’t quite right to say that they were enjoying it, either. Or maybe they were. Taletha couldn’t tell herself, if she was enjoying it, so how could anyone else say?

Taletha sensed the Device click into yet another cycle. She tried weakly, desperately, to avoid the tickling to come, and of course she failed. The straps holding her in place were as strong as ever, and the tickle implements just as effective as at the beginning of the session. She giggled and giggled and giggled as those implements moved in to tickle her all over. Then they withdrew, and the Device clicked as it came to its proper, and intended, halt.

#

That evening, the three halflings sat with Master Amanda in The Orange House, drinking hot chocolate. “I won’t hold you to the seventh day of your indenture,” the human said. “But I’d like you to consider. I have a full-size version to build yet for Baron von Federkeil, and he is not the only noble to commission a Device. Workers who know them inside and out are going to be in demand. Even if they are female, or halflings.” Her eyes narrowed in amusement, behind her round glasses. “It’s amazing how that can become irrelevant, when a patron really wants something. In any case, go off and enjoy yourselves tomorrow, and if you manage to keep out of trouble, I’d like you to come back the day after. For some honest work on the full-size Device.”

“But not as ‘test subjects,’ please, Master Amanda,” Heather said.

Master Amanda smiled again. “No, you’re a little too small for a human-scale Device.”

“And if you decide you need ‘more tests’ in the half-scale Device?” Kimiko asked.

The human took a sip of chocolate. “I might – but if I do, I’ll let you decide if they’re really necessary. Fair enough?”

Taletha took a sip of her own chocolate. It was good; she could get used to having enough money to regularly buy it. She glanced at her oath-sisters; noted their subtle assent. “We’ll think about it,” she said, but she knew that she would agree in the end.

 

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14.05.13 | updated - 20.05.17

 

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