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Part 1, The Farm of the Delphian Sisterhood, introduces Sam Reilly, a retired ex Marine, to the Delphian Sisterhood, a group of four beautiful but mysterious women quietly tending a farm in Western Pennsylvania. As a neighbor on an adjacent farm, Sam assumes the role of protector and guardian for the four women. He learns that his role entails much more. He is protector, lover and frequently, disciplinarian, for the sisters have a need for a strong man who will dispense domestic discipline in order to maintain domestic harmony.
In Part 2, the remote village of LaForge is introduced. Bridget O'Brien, a sculptress, has fled New York for a simpler life and hopes to find it in LaForge, a village known for its artist colony feel. A chance meeting with the deputy constable, Tom McRae, leads to a budding romantic involvement she hadn't anticipated. But carrying that relationship forward may mean accepting Tom's notion of domestic discipline, and will call for her participation in an ancient Rite, one that requires bravery and sacrifice. But the Rite itself reveals an awakening threat, one poised to strike at the heart of LaForge.
Part 3, Thermopolis Springs, brings Sam Reilly to LaForge seeking the Delphian Sisterhood. With him is Racheal Greene, a renown physicist, searching for her lost sister, last seen in the care of the Delphian sisters. The pair must team up with Tom and Bridget, not only to find Rachael's sister, but to prevent a catastrophe from destroying LaForge itself. It means going under cover into the heart of a cult of cruelty, one that employs the rod and the lash to achieve its ends.
Bell’s Camp, Oregon Cascades, 1880
The four ladies stood in row facing Josiah Bell who sat on a stump that sometimes sufficed for a chair. He used it when he needed something sturdy, and by all accounts this was one of those times. The four fidgeted, from time to time casting nervous glances at each other.
Josiah’s face was grim as he eyed the four, and from time to time slapped his left palm with the short leather strap that he carried in his right. The four were in their cotton underwear, chemises and drawers, having undressed for this scolding and the inevitable reckoning that would follow.
“I told you all to stay away from that clearing up in the hollow, and I find you there, middle of the night, holding hands, bare naked, circling that tree, chanting somethin’ er other. Now I don’t know what that was all about. I know you got your religious practices, and that’s fine. But your safety is my worry. You made me your Guardian and so I set some rules. And one of ‘em was, stay away from that clearing. I’ve seen a cougar’s kills there. I told you that. You were lucky I come along looking for you and got a good shot at that cat. I bet you don’t know he was stalking you the whole time.”
One of the four, the oldest, spoke. “Please, Josiah. We’re sorry. We had to do it. The enchantment can only be laid on the night of the August moon. It is a special time for us, and that tree, indeed, this whole valley is a special place.”
Josiah shook his head. “Maybe. But ladies, I have to do this. You should have got me to come. You broke a rule and there’s a punishment for that.”
He stood up and gestured at the youngest, a slender girl with long reddish hair.� “You first Jessie. Get up here and bend over. Put your hands on the stump.”
The girl approached the stump while the rest of them stood back.
“Pull your drawers down, Jessie.”
The girl obediently untied her drawers, letting them fall to her ankles, thereby revealing a firm and exquisitely shaped bottom. The lovely sight made Josiah catch his breath, but just for a moment. He had a duty to perform. He stepped to the side, and drawing the strap through his left hand, cocked his right arm and let fly with a firm stroke. It landed with a firm thwack! The girl tensed and drew a hiss of breath through her teeth. Her buttocks wobbled at impact and a red swath appeared.
“That’s one. You are all getting a dozen,” announced Josiah.
He meted out eleven more licks with the supple strap. Each one painted a red band across Jessie’s bottom and each one drew a hiss or a yelp from the girl. But she did not move or try to evade her punishment. As her licking drew to a close, Josiah resolved that he’d treat the other three in exactly the same way. And at the same time the thought intruded, would any of them come to his bed tonight? Often, after a punishment, they did. It was as if the spankings or strappings he administered on occasion stimulated some lusty desire. He didn’t understand it, but they had asked for this type of discipline. It was part of their compact. He put the thought aside and motioned for Jessie to get up.
He wiped his brow and gestured with the strap. “Amelia, you next. Get over here, gal.”
Three more to go. They were lovely women but oh, so very different. Barely a year ago they had wandered into his camp, a pristine valley set high in the Cascades. Where they had come from, he did not know. He’d taken them in, built them a cabin. They farmed and he trapped and hunted. Then they’d ‘adopted’ him, according to their custom, they’d said.
Well, this chastisement was according to their custom too. He steeled himself, resolving to mete out this punishment fairly, but severely enough to teach them all a good lesson. They were his family now and he loved them all too much to let any harm come their way.
Part 1: The Farm of the Delfian Sisterhood
When I bought Bob Hanlon’s farm back in 1985 I also bought an experience that few men ever get. But at the time I didn’t know that, of course. When I look back on it now I sometimes wonder, truly, if it ever really happened.
My name’s Sam Reilly. I’d been the owner of a construction company in Alexandria, Virginia for the twenty years since I had mustered out of the Marine Corps in 1965. I made good money at it. The 70’s and 80’s were boom times in Washington DC. I made even more money inventing tools that I patented. These tools were picked up by Snap�On who paid me what turned out to be very lucrative royalties. So by the early 1980’s I had enough money, but my life was insanity. What I really wanted to do was ditch the rat race and do quality cabinetry on my own terms far outside any large city. So at the ripe old age of 44, I moved out of my old town Alexandria apartment and looked for a place in rural Pennsylvania. It took some time but I found a realtor’s ad for a well maintained farmhouse in the Pennsylvania Dutch country and checked the place out. It was perfect: about 10 acres with an outbuilding that had plumbing and electricity and a garage. The outbuilding was just right for a workshop. The house had been owned by a former merchant marine captain (ret.) named Bob Hanlon. Bob had passed away in January and his estate had put the place up for sale.
�I had woods to one side and a creek in the back, but on the other side of my South property line across the state road was a large farmhouse with several outbuildings. It did not take long for me to notice the neighbors. They were a group of four women who made a living by farming and producing crafts and artwork as a cottage industry. It wasn’t much longer before I made their acquaintance. Their ages appeared to run from their late 20’s to maybe early 40’s. But really, it was hard to tell. They were each very attractive and vibrant, the way women are in that full bloom of adult womanhood. I could tell how pretty they were even though they wore what I thought was dress that was a bit old fashioned, almost like the Amish in these parts wear. I learned later during a visit to the hardware store that they were assumed to be part of a communal group of some sort.
“No, they’re not Amish,” said the store clerk, “They just look like they are. Fit in pretty well with the Amish in these parts, though. Very quiet, polite ladies. Pretty too,” he said with a raised eyebrow. “Just showed up one day and bought the place across from Hanlon’s. That’s all I know.” None of them were married, which I thought odd, but I guessed that maybe that had been part of their thing too�to be a communal group of females only.
I’ll have to say that from the start they were very friendly toward me. They said, shortly after we introduced ourselves to each other, that they had known Bob well and now they missed him terribly. He’d been a good friend and neighbor, it seemed, from the way they referred to him. Bob, I guess had been a vigorous, larger than life type of guy and very well organized. His farm and house had been well tended. No rotten boards or peeling paint anywhere. I also gathered that Bob had been of considerable help to the ladies in dealing with the heavier tasks that maintaining a farm and outbuildings often required.
I slid into that role myself, fairly early on. As I said, they were gracious and courteous and I don’t think I had settled in for more than a week before I received a supper invitation. Supper at their farm was like a scene out of Little House on the Prairie, only with four beautiful women. The oldest, who had personally invited me, was Elaine. She was tall, dark haired and had large beautiful brown eyes. Amelia was tall and blonde, small breasted but with the curvaceous hips and prominent bottom that long�waisted� women sometimes have. Sinn was shorter and more voluptuous, narrow in the waist but wide in the hips. Jessica, the youngest, was a redhead with a cute nose and an even cuter figure. They all had very long hair which came to down below the waist, but mostly they wore it pinned up to do their work and chores.
It was a bit unnerving to be fawned over by four women of such beauty, but I wasn’t complaining. One of the things I’d left behind were some failed relationships in Washington DC. I vowed that never again would I become involved with hard charging career women, politicos, or journalists whose life consisted of being constantly on the run or on the phone. These women were a breath of fresh air. Now don’t get the idea that they were simple. They weren’t. They were running a business and caring for a farm and all that that entails, but they enjoyed the simplicity that country life gave them. They were intelligent, ethereal and earthy, all at the same time.
I did things for “my ladies”, as I began to think of them, that they had difficulty doing for themselves, like heavy lifting, plumbing and carpentry. I fixed some barn door hinges. I got their ancient pickup truck to start. They were always grateful, and the completion of a heavy task was always followed by a dinner invitation. Afterwards we’d talk on the porch or I’d take one or two for a walk. They were very intelligent women, widely read, and with a variety of interests.
�Once we had group picnic at a pond in a wooded glen on their property, which was much more extensive than mine. They went swimming, and I was amazed to see how beautiful they were under those long dresses. They had just stripped down to this old�fashioned looking underwear, you know, cotton bloomers and a top. No self consciousness at all. They seemed to relish being in their own skin, whooping and splashing in the pond. You can imagine how I tried not to stare when they got wet, but even here, they didn’t seem to mind. They had been dying to go swimming, it seemed, but wanted a trusted man along to watch out for them.
They had about 40 acres, some of it used for growing vegetables. They also had a few pigs and chickens. I often wanted to ask about them, why they lived this way, dressed the way they did, where they came from, but I felt it would be prying. If they felt like telling me about who they were, well, I figured they’d do it on their own time.
They were definitely old fashioned, both in speech and attitude, sort of like gentile Southern ladies, but without the attitude. It was like they had emerged from a time capsule buried in the last century. Whenever we had a conversation I’d imagine I was in some old black and white movie. I put it down to the type of attitude and civility you see in women who grow up in religious communities like the Amish or Mennonites. I liked being a friend to them, but I didn’t feel like the relationship was special. Just neighborly.
Then came the day when everything changed.
Being very attractive ladies they sometimes attracted unwelcome attention. On that day I was assisting them at a fair in an adjacent county. They made a living by selling arts and crafts and so county fairs and flea markets were opportunities. My weekends were free so I had offered to help out. I carried in their merchandise and helped them set up their booth, then I wandered off. When I came back later things were winding down. Sinn and Amelia were packing up. I could see Jessica and Elaine out in the parking lot loading. I had almost turned away when two guys approached the women. It looked to me like they were talking but then Elaine put her hand out to push one of them away and the other grabbed Jessica’s arm. That did it. In a flash I was into the parking lot in time to hear Elaine say “Just leave us alone. Please. We’ve done you no harm.”
The two guys turned as I approached. One was medium sized with slick hair and the other was taller but kind of tubby. Both wore dirty overalls. I pegged them as locals.� The beer on their breath told me they were drunk locals.
“Who are you, the boyfriend?” sneered Slick, moving my way.
I said, “The ladies don’t want your company.” I moved so as to put Slick nearest me with Tubby behind him. That way Tubby was blocked. In Alexandria, in addition to running a construction company, I’d owned a dojo where I taught Shotokan Karate. I had picked it up in the Marines while stationed in Japan and I had taught it to kids in the area. Slick and Tubby didn’t know it, but they were seriously outmatched. Slick tried a big left hook, but I blocked it and punched him in the solar plexus. He went down and Tubby said “Hey, you sonafabitch” and charged at me. I stepped to the side and launched a semi�roundhouse kick right to his gut. He doubled over and I foot�swept him to take him down. Fight over. It had taken less than ten seconds and both of these idiots were on the ground, moaning.
“Get up and get the hell out of here,” I warned. They scrambled up and ran off, no doubt to look for easier prey.
Jessica and Elaine looked at me wide�eyed, but I shrugged and said something like, “So. Ok. Let’s get you all packed up, then, shall we?” I helped pack up like it was no big deal, but the ladies were chattering to each other in low voices all through the pack up and all the way home.
That night after we got back I went to the house to change. I was dressing when I heard a knock on the door. I finished hurriedly and came downstairs to see Elaine at the back door. She wanted to thank me personally on behalf of all of them for “routing those ruffians” as she put it. Then she did something I’d have never expected in a million years. She reached up with her arms and encircled my neck. Then she pulled my head toward hers and kissed me square on the lips. It was one of those long lingering kisses. I was a bit taken aback�I hadn’t expected this. She pulled away for a moment just looking at me, then she snuggled her body against mine and hugged me hard, and kissed me again. So I responded and kissed her back. What red�blooded male wouldn’t? When we broke the clinch, I had my hands on her shoulders. Her fingers undid the buttons on my shirt and she ran her hands all over my chest. The feeling was electric. Then she stood back and before my astonished eyes proceeded to divest herself of every stitch of clothing she had on. She pulled the long dress over her head and let it fall. Then she removed an undergarment like a chemise to reveal her breasts; then all she had on were long old�fashioned bloomers which she stepped out of. She was gorgeous. Firm upright breasts, a narrow waist, gently rounded flaring hips�she was a vision. Then she undid her hair and let it fall. It took my breath away.
When she was completely naked she took me by the hand, led me into my living room and pushed me back into a chair. Then she dropped to her knees and unzipped my pants. She pulled out my cock which was by now, rock hard and proceeded expertly to run her lips and tongue up and down its length until I was close to climax. She sensed this and slowed down so she could lead me upstairs. She guided me into bed and lay down beside me. At this point I was running my hands all over her body and she moaned with pleasure. I kissed her nipples and kneaded the cheeks of her satiny ass. My hand eventually found her sex, which was wet. She rolled onto her back and took me inside her. She was wet and slippery, so aroused that I slid right in. The first time we made love it was fast and passionate. I hadn’t been with a woman in months and I was more than ready. The second time was slow and sensuous. But both times it seemed like the most mind�blowing, amazing sex I’d ever had.
When we had worn ourselves out, I gazed into her eyes and started to ask, “Why?” But she stopped me. It was time to tell me, she explained, who they were. As best I can remember it was something like this. They were a part of the Delphian Sisterhood, an old sect that had its roots in medieval Europe. They were women who chose to live simply and communally without individual husbands. But they were not nuns or any other religious order. And living without husbands did not mean living without men. They chose men from time to time, she said, as surrogate husbands and protectors. They were very careful in choosing such men, but they had chosen Bob Hanlon and now they wanted to choose me. I said I was flattered, but really, all they had to do was ask and I’d help them any way they wanted. She laughed and said that my duties might entail more of this afternoon’s pleasantries. And then it hit me�“for all of you?” And she nodded, smiling.
Well you could have knocked me over. Here was this lovely lady I’d just made passionate love to telling me that all four of them might have need of my “services”.� And, they had no problem sharing. “We are healthy women and we have needs, but we have chosen not to marry. We do not want full time live�in husbands or boyfriends to take care of, but we most definitely need men in our lives,” she explained. “For all kinds of things that it is only right that men should do.” She promised to explain this enigmatic statement later. Finally she said, “We have all discussed it according to our way. I am our emissary to you, being the oldest, so we are all in agreement. If you accept and will be our guardian (as she put it)�come join us for supper tonight to seal the bargain.”
You’d think I was going to say I had to think it over. Yes, I was blown away, but wild horses couldn’t have kept me on my side of the road that night. I already liked them all well enough that in another time and place I’d have courted them all. So across the road I went. There was a different mood that night. The girls were giddy. The looks I got were steamy. I had guessed that Elaine had told all�I must have gotten a good report. After supper we all sat around and Elaine explained how it would work. If one of them required “attention” she would hoist a small flag on the pole in the front yard, a different color for each lady. If I agreed, I’d turn on a light in my attic that they could see. But it went both ways. If I needed a lady’s company, I’d turn on the attic light, then the flag meant acceptance. They preferred to attend on me, but if my presence was needed for other things, they’d just leave a note on my door.
It was the “other things” that turned out to make this arrangement even more different and, frankly more astounding than any domestic situation I’d ever heard of. About a week later (no flags yet) I had been working in my workshop doing a custom cabinet job. I noticed a note on the door as I reached my house. It said could I please come over after supper as they needed me to perform a service. So I wondered ‘what could this be?’ but after I had eaten and cleared away my dishes I walked across the land between houses and knocked on their door. I was ushered into the parlor. It was an odd scene. Jessica and Sinn were seated on the sofa. Amelia was standing in the corner, facing it with her back to the rest of us. She was dressed in a linen top and drawers that looked like short bloomers. There was a sturdy armless chair in the center of the room.�
Elaine began, “Amelia is in the corner because she has been rude to Sinn and me and has spoken out in anger. Also she has neglected chores and our calling this to her attention was the reason for her rudeness. We are women, Sam, and like all women we have our failings, try as we do, to get along. Mostly we do, but when one of us transgresses, as is our way, she must ask for correction. Amelia has done so and that is why you have been summoned here tonight.”
So I’m thinking ok, they get into spats like everybody. They’re not perfect, but what’s that got to do with me? And I asked that question.
“We must have discipline but we do not chastise each other. Our close communal living and the nature of who we are would not permit it. Thus it must be a man who corrects our faults, someone not of our kind. We have always asked our man, our guardian, to do this.”
Ok, I sort of understood, but I was still confused.
“Amelia, you may turn around now and ask for correction.”
Amelia turned around to face me and in a small voice asked me to chastise her soundly for her neglect and her rudeness. Elaine motioned for me to sit. I did so and Amelia approached and knelt before me. In her hands she held a small leather strap, about a foot in length, which she proffered to me with both hands. “Please correct me Sam. Please take this strap and whip me with it. I am to have at least 30 strokes, but it is for you to decide when I have been justly punished.”
Now I got it. I was supposed to give her a spanking. That was how these ladies kept order. I was again, dumbfounded, but I figured that if this was part of the arrangement, I’d do as they asked. I took the strap. It was thin and supple.
Amelia loosened her pantalets and dragged them to her knees. I guided her down across my knees and shifted her until her bottom was centered over my lap. With her legs slightly cocked her buttocks were jutting upward as if begging for correction. She had a beautiful bottom�full, rounded and firm,� like a dancer’s.
Now at this point I’ll have to say that I wasn’t without some experience in this sort of thing.� You don’t live in the DC area as a bachelor for 20 years, especially as I have, meeting scores of females of all persuasions without encountering some whose tastes might seem a bit exotic. So Amelia wasn’t the first female I’d ever had over my knee. There had been a senate aid, a lovely lady who had had a most distinct penchant for having her bottom thoroughly reddened as a prelude to sex. She made no bones about it, but she was older than the K Street legal assistant who acted like a brat to goad me into spanking her. Then there was that widow from Charlottesville, a horse lover who’d borrow a riding crop from the tack room when she came up to see me. Now I have to admit that I did not know whether what was going on here was sexual in nature, but I guessed not. After all, they’d all made it clear that sex was freely available on their terms. So I had to think that this was exactly what it appeared to be, and that was a punishment.
The whacker that Amelia had handed me was a one foot strip of supple leather, maybe two inches wide with a handle of sorts at one end. I asked how many she was to get and Elaine said that was up to me, given her offense as they had described it. I said ok and I asked Amelia if she was ready and she squeaked out a “yes”. I brought the leather strip down with a firm whack! right across both cheeks. Her flesh rippled and a red band appeared as she sucked her breath between her teeth. Evidently it stung. Now I knew from experience to hold back a bit�you don’t strike as hard as you can, but you don’t strike too lightly, either. A firm, deliberate stroke was called for so I set about to give Amelia a proper tanning. I smacked one cheek then the other, then both in a steady rhythmic cadence. By ten licks her bottom was suffused with red stripes. By twenty, stripes had melded into a general redness and Amelia was beginning to emit little yelps. By thirty she was drumming her toes on the floor and was starting to show signs of genuine distress. Now with a sex partner, at this point I’d often stop, but this was a real punishment so I decided� ten more good ones. That would give her something to remember without hurting her too much. I did not want to go overboard here. I announced that she had ten more coming and I delivered those slowly, letting her absorb each stroke before giving her the next. She wriggled over my lap and her buttocks quivered, delightfully I’d have to admit, with each lick.
It was about right. She was gasping and making little “wooo�oh” sounds at the end so I knew the strap had done its job. And when I stopped and told her it was over the others nodded approvingly.
I let her up and told her with a smile not to be naughty. She gave me a hug and whispered, “Thank you”. She went upstairs to put herself back together and the rest of us sat down for supper. There were no hard feelings since when Amelia reappeared she was greeted warmly by the others. Someone thoughtfully put a pillow on her chair and with a grimace and a grin she sat down. This was apparently some kind of tradition among them and it generated some good natured laughter when Amelia pursed her lips into an “O” as she took her seat. Then supper went on as if nothing had happened. My take on it was that after punishment the air was cleared, so it was forgive and forget.
And there was no surprise when later that evening Amelia informed me that she would like to accompany me home. As you might expect, the result of lighting a fire in the young lady’s rear end caused the stoking of a fire in her other parts, and our interlude that night was quite passionate.