There was a portal floating serenely above the pavement between the sidewalk and roadway.
No one was paying it any attention as it swirled with pulsing colors, openly mocking reality.
No one, that is, except a young man who stood gaping at it from the doorway of the convenience store he’d just stepped from.
Bill had stopped for a quick bite before heading to finish his shift at the warehouse down the street. It was a dull job that only required him to load and unload trucks with pallets of feed and supplies for the farms that surrounded the small town he’d grown up in. The job paid well enough to see him through the community college he attended as a way to avoid having his family pester him about what he really ought to be doing with his life.
That was all forgotten as he stood in shock looking at what he could only imagine being a crippling mental break from reality.
“You seeing this shit?” he said to no one in particular.
The unopened bag of chips fell from his hand without notice.
An older well-dressed woman passing by peering at Bill, then toward what he seemed to be gawping at. Seeing nothing she huffed, clutching her purse to her side. She slid away from the obviously drugged up delinquent. In so doing she nearly collided with the portal only to pull short, her eyes going flat. Shaking her head as if to snap herself awake she stepped to the side of the portal and kept walking.
That got Bill’s attention.
Obviously, no one else was seeing this shit.
He stooped to pick up his bag of chips, not taking his eyes off the damned mystical window of insanity.
Checking to see if it was clear, he shuffled slightly closer to the thing and tossed his snack at it. When the shiny orange bag of Cheda-Krakles! ® met the pulsing face of the portal there was a sharp cracking noise and the colors twirled faster for a moment before slowing back to its previous sedate pace. There was no sound of a bag hitting the street.
Bill cautiously stepped around the portal to be sure. He spied no familiar orange faux-cheese flavored faux-delicious snack packaging anywhere. He also observed the portal was completely invisible from this side. Carefully he maneuvered back to his original position facing the brain-aching vision of a magical freaking portal.
At this point, Bill was at a dilemma. On the one hand, he was due back to his shift lifting heavy sacks at a boring dead-end job he did not particularly enjoy. On the other, there was a magical God damned portal to God-knows-where staring him in the face.
Strangely enough, Bill had often thought about what he’d do in this sort of paranormal whacky hi-jinx situation. For instance, he’d always told himself if he saw Bigfoot alongside the road at night he would give chase to that big hairy sucker and demand an autograph. He was the type of person to feel cautiously optimistic toward the coming zombie apocalypse. That is probably all you need to know about the sad state of affairs that is Bill’s mind. Now, staring at what was either a brain aneurysm or a bonafide magical portal to adventures unknown he wasn’t sure if he had what it took to step in.
Just then he heard the unmistakable sound of a police siren chirping behind him. Turning he saw a Sheriff’s cruiser pulled in behind him, the deputy climbing out with his hand on his sidearm.
“Alright, son. Take her easy. Got a report of a man acting out around here. Now, I want you to slowly walk towards me and place your hands on the hood nice and easy. Just need to ask you a few questions,” he drawled in that bored but commanding tone that came easily to all law enforcement professionals.
That’s it settled then, Bill thought.
“Sure thing, chief. Just have to get my chips first.”
Bill stepped into the portal.
“SWEET JESUS!” Deputy Lawrence gasped.
He was shocked out of his professional demeanor, hands shaking while staring at an empty sidewalk. Having just seen a man pop out of existence in broad daylight could have that effect on someone.
The portal finished swirling violently and then winked out of reality, observed by none.
“Fuck! I’m blind!” Bill yelped as he finished his step.
There had been absolutely no sensation when passing through the freaky mystic portal of crazy. The light just went out and he stumbled, treading on something that crackled and popped, catching himself against a rough and solid obstacle. Panting with adrenaline, listening to the sound of his blood rushing through his ears he leaned into whatever it was he’d struck.
Blessedly his eyesight seemed to be coming back. Apparently wherever he appeared was simply late evening and not the midday he had been expecting. Soon he caught his breath, his heart rate slowing to acceptable levels.
Bill took in his surroundings. The obstacle he had nearly face planted was a large tree of some kind, the rough bark of the gnarled trunk pressing into his palms. Gazing about he saw that he was in a charming forest scene illuminated by moon or starlight.
There was no sign of the portal, so the catastrophic stroke he was likely experiencing had probably degenerated into severe brain damage by now.
He nudged about with his foot, heard the crinkle of cellophane, and mourned the loss of his chips.
“Well, shit. I’d better be in Middle Earth and not China.”
Bill leaned absently on the tree trunk, wondering what to do next.
“Shouldn’t there be a subtle wizard or deranged cult welcoming the Chosen One right about now?” he muttered, pulling out and checking his cellphone.
The screen flicked on, showing no connection but happily carried a full charge. He considered using the flashlight setting but considered it would be better used for emergencies as he could see well enough to travel. Unlikely to be any convenient outlets in Westeros.
“Oh well, guess I have to hunt down Merlin and get my marching orders. Damned inconvenient.”
Bill pushed himself off the tree and for lack of further shenanigans wandered down what could generously be called a trail. He was glad for his solid work boots and blue jeans. If he hadn’t been on shift he likely would be wearing flip-flops and sweatpants. Luck would have it Narnia appeared to be enjoying a refreshingly cool calm evening. The air smelled beyond fresh and was free of any annoying buzzing stinging insects.
As Bill walked he took inventory of his possessions. One cell phone, a wallet filled with six dollars and sundry cards of dubious value in any reality, and a multi-tool.
That was something anyway, the tool had a knife, pliers, screw-bits, and a bottle-opener. All any adventurer of quality really needed to take on the world, magic or otherwise. He could use the knife to stab goblins or something.
Thinking of that, he realized he’d probably need something a bit heftier if small angry green people really were part of the equation. He spent a few minutes thrashing about in the undergrowth and found a sapling of about the right size and hacked at it for a moment with the tiny serrated blade.
It was easier going than he’d expected. The blade chewed through the wood like soft cheese and branches stripped off with a simple flick. He guessed trees in Wonderland weren’t up to Earth standard. In short order, he had a serviceable if somewhat bendy staff – Stave? He flipped it upside down experimentally. Definitely a stave.
“Hah! Come at me orks! I have a stick,” he said to himself, thumping the staff down in front of him while striking a heroic pose.
Fate couldn’t ignore that one, so there came a low menacing growl off to the side of the trail.
Bill’s asshole puckered as all the quaint forest noises stilled. He frantically scanned the undergrowth to his left as his idyllic woodland transformed into a nightmarish weald.
Staring at him were two red glowing eyes perhaps fifteen feet away hovering a few feet above the earth.
“Um. Good doggy?” he proposed hopefully.
The growl shifted into a hearty yet still quite menacing chuckle as the eyes rose a further two feet into the air.
The eyes then flashed with streamers of demonic fire.
“Fuckshit!” Bill yelped and darted into the tree line opposite.
It was at that moment he realized he would never be foolish enough to chase Bigfoot and would be delighted to work an extra shift at the warehouse for the rest of his miserable demon-beast free life.
Cursing in a continuous stream he crashed through the undergrowth heedless of brambles and thorns. He broke through branches without pause and trampled anything too slow, stupid or inanimate to escape underfoot.
The thought of claws, teeth, and horrible fiery eyes drove him on heedlessly for several minutes until he burst suddenly into a clearing. He’d found a large open glade flooded with moonlight and stumbled backward to the center. Clutching his quarterstaff for dear life he strained for sounds of pursuit. Aside from his own steady breathing, all was quiet.
The realization hit him that he wasn’t even out of breath. He felt for sure he should be gasping and choking as running was not something he did for fun or health. In fact, he felt as if he’d just strolled through a park and not run for his life through dark tangled woods chased by a devil bear.
Pushing aside those thoughts Bill figured if he was going to get eaten he had better get it over with. He felt he’d been enormously lucky not to trip and fall in his frantic dash through the forest. Here at least he could see it coming and strive for it to choke on his corpse.
Standing tall, Bill waited.
A snapping branch announced its arrival. The eyes were back, trailing flames revealing nothing of the nightmare watching him keenly from just beyond the circle of moonlight.
Bill drew a steady breath, hefted his trusty stave and spoke.
“All right, let’s get this over with. I should warn you I’m chock full of carcinogens and gristle.”
The eyes seemed to dance cheerily for a moment and then an unexpectedly feminine giggle burst forth.
Bill lowered the staff, uncertain.
“Huh,” he breathed.
It chose his moment of befuddlement to leap entirely across the clearing as a flash of white fangs, slashing claws, and burning red eyes.
Bill flinched away pulling the staff horizontally across his chest, shoulders thumping into the grass as it latched onto his head and leaned in to rip his face off.
Bill found himself receiving a passionate tongue-filled kiss. His senses filled with heat, soft curves, and a decidedly not unpleasant musk.
Screaming into its mouth he pushed forward with the staff, lifting it with deceptive ease and finally getting a good look at his confoundingly amorous assailant.
A tangled mess of jet-black hair, bright red eyes, and furry pointed wolf ears greeted him. It was grinning at him, flashing wicked canines and licking full black lips. Her skin was ebony and she was undoubtedly female with those generous full breasts restrained by a simple leather wrap.
He glanced down taking in her hands, no – paws planted on his chest complete with fur and wicked claws that were mercifully not rending his flesh.
Huh, he thought, so that’s what they mean by fear boner.
“What the FUCK is going on?!” he shouted as she began to wriggle and strained to lower her face to his again, which he again somehow easily held back. She must be weaker than she looked.
Her eyes flashed larger trails of fire as she grinned down at him and responded cheerfully.
“That’s exactly what’s goin’ on if you’d just let me down! You’re kinda strong for a man, ain’t cha? Normally this’d all be over but the screamin’!”
She waggled her eyebrows at him.
“Listen, uh, lady. I’m flattered. You’re cute, but…”
She didn’t let him finish as she gasped and squealed girlishly.
“You think I’m cute? Aw! So are you, handsome! Lemme down so we can fuck!”
Before he could formulate a response, he was distracted by a thumping on his shins. Straining to look without letting his guard down he spied a fluffy wolf tail happily wagging away behind her.
Yep, she’s got a fucking tail. Look at it go, he mused.
He brought his attention back to the she-beast.
“Look, we just met… I mean, you just ATTACKED me! I don’t even know you, what exactly is this? No, what exactly ARE you?”
Bill grunted and let the staff fall while he dragged himself into a squat, pushing her back onto her knees. At least he didn’t appear to be in any danger of getting literally eaten any more.
She immediately strained forward but Bill held onto her shoulders keeping her kneeling down before him and at arms’ length. She then began to lick at his wrists, grinning all the while.
“This is new. You really are strong! Our pups are gonna be so healthy! Stop messin’ around and take off your pants, lover!”
She moaned wantonly with her soft feminine voice while straining towards him.
Tail wagging intensifies.
“Focus, lady!” Bill snapped, “name, species, serial number!”
Her tail went still, the fire trailing from her eyes fading. She was pouting.
“Fine. Name’s Rekka. I’ma hellhound. Ain’t got a whatsit number.”
Bill huffed and slowly released her, standing and backing up a bit then lowering his arms. Hellhound seemed spot on as far as he could see.
“Ok… Rekka? I’m Bill-!”
He tried to finish but Rekka pounced, wrapping him with her arms and legs while kissing and licking his face. Her tail whipped the air as her hips ground into him mercilessly.
Bill stood shock still a moment unsure how to respond before gently prying Rekka off him and holding her slight weight at arms’ length under her shoulders.
He paused a moment to admire her determination as she shamelessly brought her dexterous foot-paws forward to dig at his belt.
Rekka smirked at him impishly.
“Bill’s a funny name! How’d you get so strong? Men ain’t this strong normally! I should know, I could hold my papa down for struggle snuggles all day! And he was a lot bigger than you.”
Bill’s eyes widened.
“Struggle snuggles? Jesus. That’s… Huh.”
He stopped speaking, noticing something weird about the conversion.
Weird beyond the fact that it was all completely batshit.
Bill spoke slowly, the words strange… yet eerily familiar.
“What language are we speaking? This is not English.”
Rekka gave up trying to puzzle out his belt buckle and scratched absently at her calf with one foot-paw.
“Whaddaya mean? We’re talkin’ common. What’s angleesh?” she asked.
Bill lowered his brow and dredged up any bits of languages he knew.
“Habla espanol?” he asked.
Rekka twitched her ears at him. “Issat goblin or somethin’?”
Bill tried, “Parlez-vous Français?”
Rekka snorted, “Sounds elvish!”
Bill rolled his eyes, “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”
Rekka’s ears immediately perked up and her tail blurred as she barked.
“Du sprichst Hund! Who taught you that? What’s Doych though?”
Bill groaned and muttered, “It figures.” Her pronunciation was flawless.
Shaking his head, Bill lowered Rekka to the ground and kept her at arms’ length while looking her over.
She really was quite lovely, if you didn’t mind the fur flowing up to her arms and knees. Her oversized paws, twitching ears, and furry wagging tail were oddly adorable. The tint of her ebony skin and fiery red eyes with their black sclera was an exotic contrast. Not to mention her smooth stomach, wide bikini-clad hips, and rockin’ tits. Even the tuft of fur above her cleavage was somehow endearing.
He did have the unbelievable urge to comb out her unruly hair, though. It could be a full glossy ass length mane without all the tangles, leaves, and twigs sticking out of it.
Letting Rekka go and stepping back, he waited, but she didn’t seem inclined to resume her deranged passionate attacks at the moment.
“Okay,” he said with a nod, “forget the language stuff, that’s all I know of ‘Hund’ anyway. Can you calm your lust long enough to answer some questions?”
Rekka laughed and smirked, her ears cocking towards him attentively.
“Ok then. Where am I, why’d that portal bring me here, and why are you so damnably horny?”
He blurted the last question out, pointing accusingly at her.
Rekka grinned and stretched evocatively knowing exactly what it did to her physique.
Bill couldn’t quite stop his eyes glancing up and down her body. His gaze then snapped back to hers as he attempted to glare indignantly, failing miserably. He lowered the accusing finger in defeat.
Rekka chuckled and began to saunter around him.
Bill rotated his head to keep her in view but didn’t bother to turn his body to follow her movements.
Rekka’s voice was low and sultry.
“Well, I spose I can keep my lust…”
She drew out the word, causing him to shiver involuntarily.
“…in check. For now. You’re gonna pay for it later though, hun. Don’t worry, you’re going to like it.”
Rekka adjusted her chest wrap, breasts jiggling alluringly as she continued to prowl around Bill. He felt his face warming at that.
“This is my territory. My forest! I don’t know nothin’ about no portal, but you bein’ here makes you all mine, lover.”
She drew that last bit out into a purr, causing Bill’s mouth to dry.
“As for horny,” she giggled, “that’s all your fault, handsome.”
She winked and completed her circle directly in front of him, leaning in, breasts pressed enticingly to him as she stared adoringly into his eyes.
“You jump every guys’ bones that wander into your forest?” he asked.
Rekka’s charming grin caused his heart to skip a beat as she raised a paw to cup his cheek.
“Nuh-uh. You’re the first man ain’t called me demon slut an’ tried to stab me! You’re perfect!”
Bill sighed and draped his arms dejectedly over her shoulders, looking into her smoldering eyes. He grumbled as she wrapped her arms around his waist and nuzzled into his shirt. Her unnatural warmth radiated through him, relaxing muscles he hadn’t realized were tense.
Bill was absolutely certain that she’d never give up. Not without resorting to violence he was unwilling to commit. Probably not even then. Coming to a decision, he spoke.
“I did come here for adventure, and you’re that in spades. All right. Hell, I’m down.”
With this, she began to excitedly tug at his shirt so he gently pulled her chin up to look at him.
“That said, I’m not rolling around in the dirt. Not with the God damned owls watching us go at it. Do you have a home, someplace with a soft bed?”
Bill absentmindedly scratched behind one of Rekka’s adorable fluffy wolf ears.
An owl hooted derisively from the tree line.
Rekka’s tail whirred into a blur as she barked with excitement.
“Yes! My cave is close! You’ll love it, I have so many soft furs! We won’t be bothered at all there! We’re gonna make so many puppies! Strong pups! I’ll fuck you until you beg me to stop! Then we’ll keep goin’ an see what happens!”
Rekka yipped, licked his neck and grabbed his hand in her soft paws.
She pulled him deeper into the darkened forest.
They strolled, hand in paw as it were, through the moonlit forest. Bill tried to extract useful information about this new land from Rekka while she cunningly tried to get her paws under his clothes.
“So, hellhound. How’s that work? You aren’t going to drag me to Hell and eat my soul, are you? I’m generally against that sort of thing. Allergic to brimstone you know,” he said.
Rekka laughed and cuddled in close to his side. “Nope! Mama said we ain’t done that in a long time. Hellhounds are the best! We’re strong, fierce, an’ we can’t be tamed! We ain’t werewolves, so don’t expect me to fetch and obey,” she replied while prodding at his shirt buttons, frustrated that they didn’t seem to be paw or claw accessible.
Bill stopped that by grabbing her paw, examining the claws and pads where her palm and fingertips would be on a human. He was amazed she could get so much useful motion out of them but could see they weren’t as dexterous as his fingers. Though, they were ridiculously soft and pleasant to touch. Still, they were much more useful than his hands for cutting and fighting, he supposed. He figured hellhounds weren’t big on tool use. He let the paw free and continued his interrogation.
“Werewolves exist here, huh? What’s next vampires, orcs, faeries, and dragons? Oh, shit, are zombies real?” he asked scanning around anxiously.
The zombie apocalypse seemed a lot less appealing without a handy fortified Mall and easy access to firearms.
Rekka nodded amiably, hopping over a raised tree root while leading them confidently through the forest.
“Mmhmm,” she replied.
“You sure don’t know a lot, do ya? Where’d you grow up? Sounds dull,” she asked pausing to allow him to amble his way over the roots.
“You know, it really was,” he replied thoughtfully. “I’m from another world if I wasn’t clear before. Just me and a few billion other humans for company. This place seems a lot more interesting, even if it was just you around.” He paused looking down at her, giving her paw a slight squeeze.
Rekka yipped cutely at that, melting into his side for a moment before grinning and tugging more forcefully at his hand.
“C’mon, we’re almost there! I’ll show you interestin’! You’ll never be bored again once I get those pants off, sugar!” she cried lustily.
Bill chuckled a little nervously at that.
“Your cave, huh? Sounds… cozy. You mentioned your mother and father. You live with them? They going to want to meet me, and me being a human isn’t going to cause any problems will it?” he queried, having been wondering about that for a while now.
He sure hoped he wasn’t expected to be ravished under the watchful eyes of a couple of overprotective hellhound parents.
Rekka seemed to ignore him, her tail going still and her ears falling low against her head.
Finally, she replied, “Mmm. Nope, jus’ me now.”
Bill watched her carefully, knowing there was more to her story but he didn’t want to pry so soon. Whatever would make a cheerful creature like Rekka downcast was certainly not a happy tale. Rekka sniffed and shook her head, then glanced back at him with a small smile, her tail swishing lightly again.
“Yep! Just you, me, an’ nothing to do but mate, lover!” she said pulling him into a clearing.
Bill smiled back at her before taking in their new surroundings. He had noticed the rockier ground they traveled had been climbing steadily uphill and expected they were now within the foothills of some forested mountains.
He was unsurprised to see a rocky shelf with hanging vines concealing a dark opening into the earth. Obviously Rekka’s cave. He hoped it was nicer inside than its austere exterior.
Somewhere he heard the sound of burbling water, probably a nearby stream or creek.
“So, home sweet hole, huh. You know I can’t see in the dark, right? Also, bats creep me right out. They kill the mood faster than owls,” he drawled.
From somewhere behind them an owl hooted in complaint. He scowled over his shoulder.
“Is that thing following us?” he snarled.
Rekka laughed and pushed him towards the looming cave.
“Don’t worry, I ate all the bats when I moved in. We can light a fire and get down to makin’ puppies! Now hurry it up, I’ve waited long enough!” she cried as she herded Bill through the vines into the cave proper.
After a short blind shuffle through a tunnel, it seemed to open up in front of him, and Bill stepped to the side to allow Rekka inside. He heard her making noises somewhere just ahead of him, and then sparks flew catching quickly into flames within a small circle of stones and firewood. Rekka blew until the flames filled the circle, illuminating the room with dancing firelight.
Bill was relieved to see there were no moldering skeletons lying about, clutching cracked cellphones with horrified expressions on their skulls. One fear alleviated he looked about the spartan room, not seeing any bats or spiders scurrying for cover. It was relatively clean and dry, with the ceiling just high enough for him to not have to stoop. He noticed the smoke from the fire seem to escape through an unseen natural chimney. There was a complete lack of furniture or signs this was a place anyone lived aside from the firepit and a pile of furs near the back wall. He approached the furs and nudged them thoughtfully with his boot, seeing they were layered deeply for comfort and seemed clean enough.
When Bill turned back to check on Rekka he found her standing behind him, the fire lighting her features clearly as she stood with her paws on hips, breathing deeply with a look of pure lust on her grinning face. He suddenly realized he had trapped himself quite neatly with a fairly unknown and highly sexual creature.
Now that he could see her clearly, Rekka was easily the hottest woman he’d ever laid eyes on. Her every curve seemed to demand to be caressed and fondled. Her face was breathtakingly beautiful, large uniquely expressive eyes, small sharp nose and a wide mouth with full kissable lips.
None of the, admittedly few, women he’d been with could compare, nor the endless parade of porn stars he’d abused himself to while scouring the internet. Her furry extremities, wolf ears and tail only seemed to enhance her appeal. Bill wondered if this made him some sort of deviant, and decided that was true before he’d even met her.
“So… how did you want to do this? Start slowly, get to know each other a little better first?” he tried and failed to keep the nervousness from his voice.
“Clothes off!” she barked. Her eyes burst with flame and she seemed to be… smelling him.
“Fair enough,” Bill agreed politely.
He bent to unlace his boots and began jumping around to take them off, not willing to sit down and set off her pouncing instincts. That done, he unhooked his belt, noticing she paid careful attention to how it was done. Pulling his pants off, he tossed them onto his boots and unbuttoned his shirt, removing it and adding to the growing pile, careful to lay his cell out of the way.
Standing now only in his boxers and socks he looked at Rekka questioningly. She approached swinging her hips seductively, tail swishing languidly through the air. Panting, her eyes locked onto his crotch with laser-like focus. She placed a paw on his chest and hooked one leg behind his, finally raising her face to look into his eyes.
Smiling evilly, she pushed him back, tripping him neatly onto his back into the pile of furs. Bill grunted and levered himself onto his elbows to watch her next moves.
Rekka reached with both paws to pull off her chest wrap, breasts bouncing free, dropping not an inch as gravity completely failed to take hold. God, Bill thought, they’re glorious. Easily the finest pair of breasts he’d ever laid eyes on. They were rounded and perky, their size obscene on her small delicate frame. He was surprised to find her nipples and areola were a light pink color, standing out like beacons from the ebony globes. Rekka was obviously encouraged by his rapt approval of her assets, growling deep in her throat as she shimmied out of her little leather bikini shorts.
Bill’s attention was now completely on her exposed mound, admittedly curious what surprises a hellhound might have in store for him. He was intensely relieved to see a normal if exquisite vagina. There was a tuft of fur just above her puffy lips, which were otherwise bare of fur or hair. Her inner folds were the same pink shade as her nipples. Her arousal was evident, lips slick with her juices and jutting clitoris aching to be stroked. Rekka did just that, shuddering and growling, her eyes closed a moment as she breathed in Bill’s scent.
His own arousal was now obvious to anyone watching, the tent in his boxers raised in total approval of the sights before him. Rekka’s eyes snapped open and latched onto his tented boxers, the flames around her eyes flaring brighter than ever and a snarl of savage need bubbling out of her throat. With one last shuddering breath, she pounced.
Bill grunted as she landed on top of him, arms and legs to his sides, face directly above his, crouching over him as though he were a captured animal she was preparing to devour. He pushed his sudden trepidation aside and threw caution to the wind, grasping her by the hips. Bringing his face forward to hers he engaged in the most passionate kiss he was capable of. Rekka growled her approval, almost fighting him with her small delicate tongue as she tried her damnedest to force it down his throat. She was burning hot, almost uncomfortably so, her writhing tongue slipping about his as her soft plump lips pressed against his own.
She tasted sweeter than wine and smelled of some unfamiliar spice his nose couldn’t place but ultimately enjoyed. His mind couldn’t focus on anything but her dancing tongue when suddenly she broke away and sat down on his stomach.
“You made me wait,” Rekka hissed between clenched teeth, grinding her burning sex into his stomach, breasts shaking enticingly with her movements.
“Now it’s time to pay up,” she said, sliding herself further down his body.
Bill considered trying to take the lead at her words but decided to see where she was going with this. As long as she didn’t try anything with those wicked claws he was quite happy to let her have her little revenge. The brief moment of contact between her dripping lips and his boxer-clad member caused them both to gasp as he arched reflexively into her.
Now kneeling between his legs Rekka licked her lips, dug her claw-tipped paws under the waistband and ripped the boxers to shreds, tossing the pathetic fragments of fabric carelessly behind her. Bill took a moment to lament the loss of the only pair of comfort fit tagless cotton boxers in existence but was far too aroused to worry about that now.
His member finally freed, it rose defiantly into the air, bobbling lightly to his heartbeat. Rekka stared covetously at his cock, a line of drool slipping unheeded from her open panting mouth. She lowered her face to his member and breathed in taking his scent with obvious enjoyment then breathing out unnaturally heated moist air upon his dick causing Bill to shudder and groan. Placing one paw to his root, she took a long slow lick up his length as he gasped and shuddered.
Rekka licked her lips sinfully and said, “Oh, lover… You taste GOOD.”
With that, she dove down taking him fully into her furnace-like mouth. Bill bucked and groaned, clutching the furs under his hands while staring fixedly at the pornographic sight before him. Rekka’s technique was brutal, throwing her head up and down his length, twisting and sucking with a wanton disregard for decorum. Her ears twitched playfully at his moans as she savaged him with pleasure. Bill had never felt anything like this, his previous partners were mere amateurs of the oral arts she appeared to have mastered. Her paws danced over his thighs and stomach as she delicately scratched, teasing his skin artfully as she continued to bring him to new heights of pleasure.
Bill was barely capable of coherent thought. “Shit… s’good!” he gasped, nearly ripping the furs clutched in his white-knuckled grip. Rekka simply winked, the fire in one eye flashing out for an instant, then pressed harder, popping his cock completely into her throat.
Bill’s eyes shot wide as the rippling pressure engulfed him. Her intense heat was nearly unbearable as she swallowed continuously to heighten his pleasure. He grunted and moaned as Rekka shifted into high gear, hot drool flooding out of her mouth as she whipped her head up and down, twisting side to side. The obscene gulping noises of her frenzied assault were the only counterpoint to the moans filling the cave.
Bill felt his climax approaching, unstoppable and imminent, he managed to gasp, “Fuck…! Coming!” trying to warn Rekka of the imminent eruption. She rumbled out a pleased growl and continued her passionate abuse. Bill groaned and came, lifting himself nearly into a seated position as he clutched at her hair. Rekka’s eyes burned brighter, nearly overpowering the light from the fire as she rode his bucking hips, growling in contentment. She gulped down the pulses of his emission, seeming to share in his pleasure herself as if she delighted in the energy his seed transferred. She remained still, linked to him by her mouth as he finally finished and fell back, drained.
With a lewd slurp, she released him, licking and kissing up and down his cock to clean any remnants of his seed. Sitting up again she grinned down at his still shuddering form, licking her lips and massaging his thighs as he basked in the afterglow. The flames of her eyes now damping back to their usual fervor.
“Fuck, that was a good meal! I can taste how much you want me. Now, you’re all mine,” she hissed lasciviously.
She began to stroke his still sensitive member, causing him to gasp and shudder. The soft pads of her paw and the silken fur were sweet torture.
“Now, I know you’re all worn out, but I’m afraid we’ve only just begun! I’m going to ride you until you beg me to stop! But I won’t,” she crooned lovingly with an evil glint in her eyes.
She started to raise herself forward, positioning her dripping lips over his twitching member when Bill made his move.
He wasn’t as tired as he felt he should be, which was becoming a familiar feeling the more time he spent in this crazy world. She’d wrung him out and he damn well felt his brain should be pooling out of his ears from the pleasure she had brought him. She likely expected him to be putty in her hands at this point. Instead, he felt near rejuvenated, ready for more. He surely wasn’t going to let her get away without giving her a little of her own back. His pride wouldn’t allow it.
Bill surged forward and cupped her round ass, taking a moment to squeeze the soft globes and feel the surprised muscle under her plush cheeks. He slung her forward as she yelped in surprise, leaving her kneeling over his face, staring down at him in shock as he taunted her with a grin of his own.
“What?! How? Why’d you-,” she stammered before he made his intention clear.
“Oh, oh…!” Rekka moaned as he began to lick.
He slid his tongue up and down her slit, swirling around her clit while reveling in her taste. Fuck, Bill thought, I’ve got a new favorite flavor and it’s Rekka. She was tart, spicy and the heat radiated out of her like an oven. Rekka began to hump into his face as she gripped his head with her paws, whimpering and yipping enthusiastically. She quickly drenched him with her hot wetness, her scent invading his senses. He loved every second of it.
“Oh! So fuckin’ good! Never… Never felt this good!” she moaned though he could barely hear her with her thighs clamped solidly to the sides of his head.
Bill tugged an arm free and brought his fingers into the action, slid two into the vice-like grip of her velvety pussy. He began to make slow come-hither motions and Rekka responded with increased moans and shaking above him in appreciation. More of her juices flooded her, which he greedily licked clean.
“F-Fuck! Every day! Every fuckin’ day you’re gonna fuckin’ do this for me! Never stop! Fuck, fuck fuck!” she repeated like a mantra, digging her claws into his scalp and grinding her clit into his tongue. Bill kneaded her ass cheek and continued to assault her pussy with his dancing tongue and fingers.
Capturing her clit between his lips he began to trace the alphabet on it, teaching her a new language in pleasure. Between her moans and grinding, he felt a thumping on his stomach. Not stopping his assault with his tongue and fingers, he removed his left hand from her ass and caught her whipping tail, giving it an experimental tug. Rekka gasped and jerked, squeaking and shaking above him. Emboldened, Bill grasped the tail firmly, pulling with a hard, steady pressure.
“Oh, FUCK ME!” she screamed, “I’m comin’!”
Rekka seemed to seize for a moment, then grunted and howled above him, trying to grind his skull through the floor. He was again greeted to a light show as the strange fires in her eyes burst forth like flamethrowers, putting the fire’s light to shame. She quaked and cursed, and he was fairly certain she’d pulled out some of his hair with her clasping paws. A flood filled his mouth as he continued to lick and tease her, letting her ride out her orgasm to completion. Finally, she gasped and slumped forward panting. He slowed his movements and released her with one last languid lick. Smacking his lips proudly.
Bill was mightily pleased with himself and was about to suggest they take a break and maybe cuddle.
Rekka had other ideas and sat up with a huge grin on her face.
“That,” she said, “was amazin’! Never thought of makin’ you do that! Now enough fuckin’ around, let’s do this!”
Rekka bounced back, leaving Bill gaping in amazement as he watched her swivel her hips and grasp his cock in one paw. Without further ado, she dropped herself fully onto his member. Bill’s breath left him in one choking gasp as its velvety heat crushed him in its vicelike grip.
If he thought her mouth was hot, he was now sure he’d find his dick parboiled if he somehow made it out of this alive. He was willing to find out, though, because the heat and pressure were deliriously fine. Rekka wasted no time and began thrusting herself up and down relentlessly, cruelly driving into his hips, a hard slap punctuating every repeated impact.
Bill snapped himself out of his stunned immobility and began to thrust back at Rekka, who beamed a grin down at him while quickening her already murderous pace. He gritted his teeth and grunted in pleasure while refusing to back down from meeting her thrusts. Rekka arched her back appreciatively and moaned to the ceiling, her bouncing breasts jutting invitingly. Bill immediately grabbed for them as though she’d thrown him a lifeline, kneading and palming in delight. They felt better than they looked, full and giving, springing back to their shape no matter how he manhandled them. Her hard nipples burned into his palms while he attempted to burn their shape into his mind.
He knew he wouldn’t have lasted a minute before she’d so expertly drained him earlier. Even now he wasn’t sure how he was managing to hold on. Her exquisite folds clung to his cock as she thrust up and down his length ceaselessly while writhing and moaning above him. She was so fucking tight, he could barely comprehend the pleasure she was forcing on him. No woman compared. He knew he was ruined for anyone else.
Rekka suddenly slapped his hands away, leaning forward and pushing a nipple towards his mouth. He greedily accepted sucking and lightly biting to her complete approval.
“Yesss… Fuck! Mmm… bite me! Oh, fuck! I love you! Love you, love you, love you…!” she whimpered, all the while slamming herself down on him with savage abandon. Bill’s heart raced, his mind popping and sparking with the maddening pleasure she was giving him. He knew he had to end this before he lost his wits, or his heart gave out.
Reaching behind her he once again snatched her whipping tail out of the air, this time with both hands. Rekka yelped as he pulled with force, bringing her down onto his hips with a sharp slap.
“Fuuuuuuck! My fuckin’ TAIL! YES! Comin’! Oh, fuck!” she roared, grinding herself down onto his cock.
Whimpering and snarling she fell forward onto his chest, smashing her breasts against him while her tongue sought his. As she orgasmed her folds clenched harder than he thought possible, wringing his own climax free as she milked him aggressively. Groaning into her mouth he dropped her tail and embraced her as they both shuddered out their pleasure. They lay together, gasping and kissing, enjoying the afterglow.
Winded but satisfied, Bill laid there enjoying a job well done as he luxuriated in the unnatural heat of her body, completely relaxed. This was contentment, he thought.
Rekka slowly pushed herself upright, squeezing him playfully still inside her as she stretched languidly. Bill lightly tweaked her nipple in return, smiling up at her drunkenly. Now they could lay together and talk, maybe cuddle, he reckoned.
“Well, that was a good start,” she smirked down at him and began to slide her hips up his still quite sensitive member. Bill grimaced, shocked into immobility.
“What, did you think we were finished? I TOLD you I’d make you beg! I can go all night, lover!” she laughed as she began to speed up her movements. Bill’s eyes narrowed. She’s crazy, he thought, there’s just no way. I wanted to cuddle!
A small whimper escaped his throat as he resigned himself to a night of delicious torment.
She really did make him beg. She was pure unadulterated lust. She was a demon.
Bill was in love.
After dragging them forcefully through several more screaming shuddering climaxes, he’d finally had too much. Oddly, the flesh was willing, but the spirit wanted to crawl off and shoot itself. His brain just couldn’t handle any more back to back orgasms, it wasn’t capable of experiencing that much pleasure all at once.
The worst of it was, he was almost certain she’d been near to breaking herself. That last climax had left her panting and bleary-eyed, but with a dogged determination to outlast him. She’d seemed to be working herself back into another go of it before he’d grabbed her paws and begged her to end it.
Grinning in victory she slumped to his side and began to gently lick at his neck, murmuring about puppies.
The fire had died down to embers, they must have been going at it for most of the night. He wondered if it was morning yet, but no light seemed to be leaking in from the entrance.
Bill stared at the ceiling wondering if he’d found heaven or hell.
“Fuckin’ adventure,” he muttered.
Rekka giggled into his ear as he drifted off to sleep.
Bill was woken sometime later by the pressure of his bladder. Blinking the sleep away from his eyes he saw that Rekka was still out of it, her head resting on his chest with an arm and leg thrown over him possessively.
Unbelievably he felt well rested and loose like he’d slept the night away instead of being grudge fucked by an insatiable hellhound.
Careful not to rouse her he slid away and lowered her gently into the furs.
Rekka let forth a sleepy, “Wan…” and began to gently hump the air in her sleep.
Best to let sleeping dogs lie, he thought.
Standing, he quietly and quickly dressed, as the air was chilly without his adorable electric heater of a hellhound wrapped around him. He cursed internally at wearing his jeans sans underwear as he stuffed the remnants of his boxers into his pocket and ambled into the light flooding through the cave mouth in search of relief.
Bill did his business against a tree a few yards from the cave and found himself greatly parched. He realized he’d not eaten or drunk anything since his lunch the previous day. About time he explored that babbling brook he could hear faintly through the trees.
As he trooped through the forest he began to admire the pristine scenery. He had never seen such natural beauty, completely untouched by civilization. Even in the woods around his small hick town, there was always some mark of humanity’s passage be it careless litter or ATV tracks wending every which way. He could quite possibly be the first human to ever grace Rekka’s little haven.
The bright morning light diffused through the leafy canopy bringing to his mind the old animated pictures, expecting Bambi to come trotting out at any moment. Luckily for Bambi, he didn’t show because Bill was starting to realize how hungry he was. He’d snap that little bugger’s cute neck if he were foolish enough to wander close.
Eventually coming upon the stream, he slid down a shallow bank and looked around. It wasn’t very deep, just a few inches of crystal clear water running over sand and rocks. He could see that several yards upstream there was a small rocky overhang creating a showery waterfall.
He contemplated the water flowing past him, wondering if there were dangerous microbes or brain eating amoebas excitedly waiting for him to drink. Shrugging, he figured he’d rather die feverish and delirious than thirsty, so he crouched down and drank his fill. It was cold, crisp and deliciously pure.
The amoebas were probably crawling toward his precious brains already.
His immediate concerns taken care of, Bill strolled on back the way he came and entered Rekka’s cave. He found her still peacefully sleeping, occasionally humping at the air, raping him in her dreams.
She was quite a sight in all her nude glory. The natural morning light filtered in to soften her savage, powerful aspect and enhanced her cuddly soft fuzzy side. He fought the urge to lay back down and snuggle with her.
He brought out his cell phone and quickly snapped a picture, knowing he’d have few opportunities to see a passive Rekka. He was then surprised to see the battery still showed a complete charge. The icon indicated that the phone was currently in charging mode. He flipped it over and removed it from its protective case to extract the battery. Looking back to the screen he saw that it was still on, and inexplicably charging.
Bill shrugged, assuming magical shenanigans were at play and decided to ignore the mystery unless the phone exploded. Closing it back up and placing it in the case he tucked the phone into his shirt pocket again.
His stomach took that moment to announce its fury at being ignored so long.
The low growling caused Rekka to snort and reach over to Bill’s side of the furs. Finding no human sleep-aid she sat up and yawned, blinking sleepily up at him.
“Mornin’, husband! Ready for round ten?” she asked as she stretched, grinning, then patted the furs next to her.
Bill chose to ignore the husband remark, for now. Instead, he replied, “Eleven, actually, and no. I’m starving, what are we doing about breakfast?”
Rekka laughed musically before hopping to her feet, breasts bouncing jauntily as she searched around for her bits of clothing. “You were keepin’ track! Guess I’ll have’ta try harder today. But yeah, we should eat. You need to keep your strength up. Don’t need you goin’ soft on me!” She licked her lips and blew him a kiss as she shimmied into her bikini shorts.
“Yeah, that’d be a shame. What’s for breakfast? I didn’t see a Waffle House on my way to the pissing tree out there,” he said while enjoying the show of her struggling back into her chest wrap. He hated to see those pink nipples leave but loved to watch them go.
Finished she reached up to pull his head down for a lingering kiss.
“I’ll go hunt us up somethin’ tasty. You can’t go, you make so much noise the game’ll hear you comin’ for miles! You stay here lookin’ pretty, maybe clean up a bit sugar,” she said condescendingly.
Rekka brazenly ignored his raised eyebrow and swatted his ass, making him jump a bit as she skipped out of the cave laughing.
Bill sighed and followed her out.
He found her squatting next to his toilet tree, doing her own business. When finished, she hopped forward and kicked back a few flurries of dirt and leaves. Satisfied, she gave him one last wide grin and with a cheery wave bounded off into the trees running on all fours. Bill lamely waved in return before turning back into the cave. He decided he may as well embrace this new domestic role she’d thrust upon him.
He saw that the firepit needed more wood if they were to cook whatever pitiful woodland creature she dragged back in. First, though, he wanted to sort out those furs they’d thoroughly debased last night. Picking off the first couple layers he decided the rest would do with a good airing out and flipped the whole lot into a roll onto his shoulder to take out of the cave.
He spread the furs around on low hanging branches and looked about for something to beat them with, recalling now that he’d forgotten his trusty stave at the glade where he had ‘met’ Rekka for the first time.
Irritated with himself, he set to making a new one with the multi-tool’s little blade. It just wasn’t the same, this one was undeniably just a staff. He whipped his new club at the furs, clouds of dust and loose fuzz drifting off until he was satisfied, trusting in the fresh breeze to do the rest. He leaned the staff against the cave entrance and turned to his next task.
Gathering up the two aromatic furs, reeking of aroused hellhound and tortured human, he retraced his steps to the little stream he’d found. He scrubbed them diligently as he could without soap or detergent to aid the process. When they seemed to be as clean as he could manage he laid them flat on some rocks in direct sunlight to dry. Now for himself.
Bill stripped down, laying his boots and jeans on the bank with his phone tucked safely away into one boot. Holding his socks and shirt he braced himself and stepped under the small waterfall, gasping and cursing at the shocking cold. Next time he was absolutely dragging Rekka in here with him, she’d probably turn it into an open-air sauna. He quickly scrubbed himself as well as he could, wishing for soap and yearning for indoor heated plumbing. Next, he rinsed out his shirt and socks, laying them out with the furs to dry.
Bill then spent the next hour or so gathering up a huge pile of dead wood and kindling for the fire, not wanting to have to do it again anytime soon. Laziness by preparedness was his motto. Never do the same job more than necessary as it could become someone else’s problem later.
Finding his clothes dry enough, but the furs still slightly damp he decided they could finish drying by the fire. He got dressed and tossed the entire pile of wood onto the furs and wrapped them into a hugely awkward yet secure package.
He experimentally hefted it and found the comically large package was easy to lift but awkward to carry. He briefly wondered what, if anything, that portal had done to him. He knew he shouldn’t be capable of this sort of strength and stamina. Though he certainly wasn’t a slouch and worked a physical job, this was just getting ridiculous. He didn’t feel any lighter than back home, so figured it couldn’t be a change in gravity causing this. Ah well, he thought, more magical shenanigans. He’d wait for that plot exposition if it ever came at all. Straining to see around his absurdly sized load he began his trek back to the cave.
Nearing Rekka’s cave he heard noises and assumed she’d returned with her trophy. Likely expected him to cook it himself and feed it to her lying back on the furs like some decadent barbarian queen. His oddly cheerful reverie was interrupted by an unfamiliar voice.
“Halt!” the deep masculine shout demanded.
Bill drew himself up short, causing the furs to shift and send the entire pile of wood tumbling to the ground, scattering untidily in front of him. Scowling at the mess, he looked at his new guests. There were seven of them arranged across the clearing, blocking his path back to the cave. His eyes widened upon seeing an honest-to-God knight in shining armor seated on a snorting charger. The face of his helm was raised and two flat brown eyes gazed dispassionately at him over a long aquiline nose sporting a full curling mustache.
Arranged loosely around the knight were a half-dozen men-at-arms, clad in leather armor topped by steel helms reminiscent of modern combat helmets. Three carried tall spears, and two with large wicked looking heavy crossbows. Bill was mostly interested in the one in which was currently aimed directly at him. The last and least remarkable soldier was holding in both hands a long thin package wrapped loosely in oiled leather and wore a large backpack. Most of them weren’t even looking his way as they watched the surrounding forest, clearly ill at ease.
Bill slowly raised his hands, palms forward to show he was unarmed. “What seems to be the problem, officer?” he asked, desperately hoping this was just your standard deep forest patrol. They were probably looking for illicit meth labs down at the orc trailer park.
Lancelot ignored him. “Search him, Tullius,” he said giving a curt wave. The closest soldier tossed his spear to another and drew a short stabbing sword from a sheath at his side. He was slightly shorter than Bill, but stockier and more powerfully built much like the rest of the soldiers. Approaching smoothly, he avoided crossing the aim of the crossbowman and circled behind Bill’s back. Bill quietly endured a rather crude pat down which mostly concerned his belt, jeans and pant legs. Tullius found only his wallet and multi-tool which he puzzled over a moment before nodding at the knight, having missed the cell phone tucked into his shirt pocket. Sir Galahad waved them forward. Tullius sheathed his sword and grabbed Bill firmly by the bicep, ordering, “Move.”
Bill complied and allowed himself to be marched up to the side of the horse where Tullius handed over Bill’s belongings. The knight flipped open the wallet, dipping clumsily through its contents with gauntleted fingers before casually tossing it to the ground. Bill gritted his teeth and decided to pretend that hadn’t pissed him off. The multi-tool brought an interested murmur from his lips as he pulled it open and clacked the pliers together experimentally. Folding it back he tucked it into a pouch on the side of his saddle, finally giving Bill his attention as he gazed sternly down at him.
Bill stole the initiative and asked, “Everything in order, sir…?” He ignored Tullius’ sharp intake of breath and squeezing on his bicep.
“Mm. You will refer to me as Lord Flavius, wretch,” he said with arrogant disdain. “Now, you will tell me of the creature, its features, and where the unholy beast is lurking,” he commanded. Lord Flavius then picked up an odd crystal and metal gadget chained to his saddle. He inspected it with interest as it flashed a clear white light for a brief a moment. Grunting, he let it fall back to hang, swinging, the light extinguished.
“I know that… ‘she’,” Flavius said with dripping contempt, “is near.”
Bill cleared his throat and said, “Sorry, Flavor Lord, no clue what you’re on about. Just enjoying a hike through the woods. Thought I’d start a fire and roast some marshmallows. Don’t know about any creatures but I did see a big squirrel some ways back. Looked pretty menacing. Might want to check it out.”
Lord Flavius’ frowned and looked at Tullius, who promptly swung his meaty fist into Bill’s stomach with a dull packing thud. Bill blinked at Tullius, who’s knuckles still dug into his stomach, sharing a mutual look of surprise from his non-reaction.
Rekka, Bill mused, had caused him more pain swatting his ass.
“Oh, uh… Oof,” he said lamely a moment later. Tullius stepped back cursing in alarm, reaching for his sword and looking to his lord for instruction.
“Incubus…” Flavius hissed, his disgust plain as he slid a broadsword free from the sheath on his saddle. “The vile succubus has corrupted him!” he shouted, backing the snorting horse up. The entire troop now focused on Bill. He assumed things were about to go completely to shit as his eyes locked onto the crossbows aimed at his chest. Flavius raised the sword over his head and screamed, “What are you waiting for, fools? Kill-!”
He was interrupted by a furious snarling from behind. As one they turned their heads, revealing Rekka standing in the open shaking with rage. Her eyes burned malevolently with jets of fire, ears laid flat against her skull as she bared her fangs and spread her claws with obvious deadly intent. A headless deer carcass lay quietly bleeding beside her. Ah, breakfast, Bill’s neglected stomach informed him.
“Get the fuck away from my husband, assholes!” she snarled through her fangs. Even Bill felt slightly uneasy as his cheerful little Rekka turned into a murderous monster before his eyes. Still cute, though, he decided.
“Aww, y’all done fucked up, now,” Bill taunted.
“Hellhound!” Lord Flavius gasped, his dismay obvious. Flipping his visor down, he wheeled his charger and began barking orders. “Spears, forward! Contain her! Matius! This is it, ready the weapon and bring her down!” he shouted, the two spearmen slid together and lowered their spears towards Rekka. The one called Matius rushed to the side for space and bent to unwrap whatever it is he carried, dropping his large pack down next to him. Flavius spared a thought for the crossbowmen and said, “Arbalests, kill that idiot.”
“Oh, shit!” Bill cursed, a sinking suspicion that he might be the idiot as both crossbows swiveled back onto him. He threw his arms up and flinched as they readied to fire too surprised to dodge.
Rekka came to his rescue, her opening move being to throw their breakfast with bone-snapping force into one of the crossbowmen, flipping him forward. His bolt slammed impotently into the dirt. He wasn’t getting back up soon and lay there moaning. The deer carcass tumbled a bit, not much the worse for wear. Couldn’t get any deader than headless.
Unfortunately for Bill, the second crossbowman had ice water in his veins. He ignored his comrade’s plight and calmly loosed his quarrel. His aim was slightly off, striking Bill in his left forearm instead of the intended gut shot.
Bill stared numbly at the bolt piercing the meat of his arm, shaft grating between the bones. The barbed head gleamed wetly with his blood on the underside of his arm, while the fletching twitched jauntily along to his thudding heartbeat from the other side.
Up to this point, Bill had secretly been hoping his unnatural strength meant he might be invulnerable, safe from harm as he enjoyed his magical vacation. The bolt sticking from his arm had crushed those fantasies as easily as it pierced his flesh.
“Fuck,” he said, and nodded. That seemed the appropriate response. His arm began to throb painfully, but his attention was taken up by his old friend, Tullius, rushing him with a sword. Bill held his arm stiffly out to his side, ignoring the arrow and hoping it would just go away.
Waiting for Tullius to close, Bill skipped to the side and brought him to a skidding stop, catching the wrist of his sword arm. Tullius winced as Bill ground the bones of his wrist together, dropping his sword with a cry of pain. The last thing Tullius saw was Bill’s forehead barreling toward his eyes. Tullius dropped to the ground with a thud, blood flowing from a broken nose. Bill scooped up the fallen sword with his good hand. Now for that fucking crossbow guy, he thought.
Turning he saw the man scrambling to lock back the arms of the crossbow, pulling with all his might as it slowly bent and clicked into place. Just as he started sliding a new bolt home, Bill flung the sword at him overhanded. It hit, but as he’d never practiced throwing swords, it cracked pommel first into his sternum. Seemed effective, though, as with a choking gasp the soldier dropped the crossbow clutching at his chest and falling to his knees. Bill stalked forward and kicked the bow away. He thought about doing the same with the soldier, but he seemed out of the game, gasping shallowly as he turned a slight shade of grey then flopping onto his back. Bill ignored him to check on Rekka.
She was just finishing with her second spearman, whipping him in the face with the butt of his own spear to send him crashing to the ground, dented helmet rolling away. The other was thrashing on the ground, screaming like a stuck pig with his own broken spear piercing his thigh. Not the pointy end, either. Apparently, she’d snapped it in half and used the broken splintery end, the spearhead waving in the air as he screamed and clutched at his thigh.
Rekka then turned her snarling attention onto Lord Flavius, who expertly worked his horse to keep her in sight, flashing hooves striking out at her while he prodded ineffectively at her nimble form with his heavy broadsword. Tiring of the game, Rekka crouched and leapt, snarling, into the air over the horse’s head to slam claws first into his breastplate. Her leap carried them both clear of his saddle, his broadsword falling in the opposite direction. They slammed into the dirt with a horrendous crashing of plate metal. Rekka growled and dug her claws into his breastplate, repeatedly slamming him into the dust until his helmet flew off and revealed he’d probably been knocked senseless since the fall. The horse clopped off a few feet and started nibbling at the foliage.
Rekka turned to Bill, seeing him she dazzled him with her beautiful smile as she stood. Bill started to call out to her when he heard a strange sound from the man Matius, who Bill had forgotten as he hadn’t seemed to be waving anything sharp about. Turning, he saw the man aiming a crude musket past him.
Heart skipping a beat, Bill turned to shout a warning to Rekka, seeing her with a self-assured grin on her face. She was padding forward with her head cocked to the side with curious interest. She plainly wondered what the silly stick was, currently centered on her chest.
The thunderous explosion whipped her head straight, her eyes flashing wide with shock, ears falling flat for protection. Bill’s cry of warning turned to horrified loss only to be cut short as she continued walking, unperturbed. He stared at her uncomprehending until Rekka laughed and pointed with her furry paw.
“The fuck he do that for? You think he meant for it ta’ happen?” she asked, her voice filled with humor.
Blood pounding in his ears, heart still hammering in his chest, Bill turned slowly to look at the musketeer.
The man’s face and hands were a bloody ruin, skin blackened with burns, flesh hanging in ribbons. What was left of Matius stood there swaying, mewling piteously. He’d lost his eyes, and most of his face and lower jaw. It was a horror as he gurgled and moaned, slowly waving his stumps before him. The remains of the musket were in two pieces, mostly. A cracked wooden stock and a warped, ruptured barrel the only recognizable bits. The thing had exploded, taking his hands and face with it.
Bill stared at the unfortunate man, his stomach churning, wondering if he should put him out of his misery or leave him to suffer. The man had been aiming at Rekka before he’d blown himself to hell. The choice was taken from him as Rekka strode forward and cleanly put the man down with a slash of her claws. She seemed to have an easier time behaving as a decent human being than he did, despite her tail.
Rekka turned as Bill moved forward and wrapped her in a one-armed hug, face pressed into her hair between her ears as he shuddered with relief that she was unhurt. She began to return his embrace enthusiastically when she abruptly stiffened and yelped.
“Your arm!” Rekka cried, “Oh! Oh no. I’m sorry, I thought they’d all be fightin’ me, cause you’re so harmless.”
“Harmless? I got two of them,” he complained, waving his punctured arm in their direction, wincing at the pain the movement sparked. Rekka tsk’d in annoyance, gently securing his arm while she looked him over.
“Two more that I coulda took without getting an arrow through me. You should’a just run. I’m sposed’ta take care of ya’ now, husband,” she replied.
“Well, I’m a lover, not a fighter,” Bill said defensively, looking over the four men she’d easily dispatched without a scratch. Like he could call himself a man if he ran and left her to fight his battles. That’d be a good way to take a bolt in the back.
Rekka laughed and shot him a grin saying, “Mmm, don’t I know it, sugar.” She then focused on his wound, concern filling her eyes. “Now, hold still, this has’ta come out,” she said, turning serious.
Bill slipped his arm out of her gentle grip and said, “Nuh-uh, It’s part of me now. You’re just going to have to get used to it.” He backed away, unwilling to process the thought of yanking that bolt out of his arm. Rekka’s eyes narrowed and her ears fell back as she growled and yipped at him in frustration.
Bill endured her barks for a few seconds before rolling his eyes and sighing, “Alright, enough with the angry dog noises.”
Pointing with his skewered arm he said, “Pull that dead assholes backpack over here. He’d better have alcohol and bandages in there or me and Mister Bolt are sticking together until you find us a doctor.”
Rekka eagerly retrieved the pack as Bill lowered himself to the grass, shaking and weak from the adrenaline leaving his system.
His guess was right apparently, most of their supplies were in the large rucksack poor Matius had been hauling. A rough medieval first-aid kit was included. Clean linen bandages, needle, thread, and a generous flask of eye-watering clear spirit. Bill splashed some on his arm, hissing at the burning. “And one for me. Cheers,” he said, raising the flask to Rekka and Mister Bolt before draining half its contents. Choking and sputtering he wondered if that hadn’t been some form of rubbing alcohol, but not really caring as the calming warmth filled his empty belly. Rekka crinkled her nose cutely as he breathed out the fumes.
“Ready?” she asked, concern filling her voice as she kneeled before him. “No, but go ahead beautiful. Just be careful, it’s barbed and I don’t want to feel those feathers sliding through me, either.” Rekka’s smile flashed brightly at his words, then she simply leaned over and nipped the fletching end of the bolt off with her teeth. Only a nub remained as she turned and spat out the rest.
Bill was impressed, it had barely jostled his wound at all. Realizing her teeth were razor sharp he recalled how eagerly he’d been thrusting his tongue in there last night.
“Okay, sugar. On three,” Rekka said, grasping the bolt just below the head with one paw, her other curled around his elbow. He nodded numbly, knowing what was coming. “One…” she said, huffed a breath, and abruptly ripped the bolt free in one fluid motion. She grinned at him and tossed the bolt into the grass with a flourish.
“Ow,” Bill said thickly, wheezing at the ragged little hole in his arm. It had hurt like hell but drink and shock had done its job. Mostly he just felt too worn out to break down crying. Shuddering, he reached for the flask of spirits to disinfect the wound when Rekka leaned her face over his arm.
She was cleaning his wound, her tongue hot, soft and gentle. He considered the sanitation of licking at an open wound but figured she must know what she was doing. Anyhow, it felt soothing. When she was satisfied she aided him by holding two bandages against the wounds, applying pressure while he wrapped linen securely around his arm. Tying it one handed he finished and thanked Rekka with a kiss on her forehead, her tail swishing happily.
Flexing his left hand into a loose fist was painful but he managed. Thankfully it hadn’t snapped the bones. Bill speculated a few days before gangrene set in and he’d have to amputate. Until then, he would have pretty fair use from it. Struggling awkwardly to his feet he pondered what to do with the other six moaning and unconscious bodies they’d acquired. More importantly, he wanted a better look at the less than impressive musket.
Bill trudged over to the site of Matius and his spectacular exploding flintlock, while Rekka poked around the battlefield. Crouching, he began sorting through the pieces, flicking bits of Matius off the largest parts and examining them closely. He couldn’t tell much from the barrel, other than it had originally been solidly crafted before attempting its sad impression of a trumpet. There was no sign of the trigger mechanism, likely embedded somewhere in what remained of Matius’s face. The stock was pretty much as he’d expected, a thick piece of sturdy wood shaped into a comfortable grip and shoulder butt, now cracked severely. Flipping it over his eyes narrowed as he considered the markings carved into its side.
Bill called over to Rekka, “Hey, Rekka. Don’t suppose you can read, can you?” he asked hopefully.
Rekka scoffed, pulling a short sword from one of the downed soldiers and tossing it onto a pile she’d been gathering. “What d’you think, sugar?” she responded cheekily, flipping the groaning man over with careless ease to check for hidden blades.
Bill just nodded, disappointed but not surprised. Reading was likely not much use out here in her untamed wilderness. Still, he really wanted a second opinion on these markings. Standing, he tucked the shattered stock under his arm. Making his way over to the whimpering man with the broken spear in his thigh, he stopped by the scene of his impromptu surgery to gather up a few supplies.
Now standing over him Bill saw that the soldier was closer to his own age, a bit younger, around eighteen if he were to guess. Shit, just a damn kid, Bill thought. He glared down at the whimpering boy, whose eyes were clenched shut from the pain, before dropping some bandages onto his chest and kneeling down to take hold of the spear. The soldier’s eyes flashed open, panicked, meeting Bill’s. “Please, I beg of you, I yield,” he cried, his hands holding to his thigh above the spear.
“Alright, shitbird, I’m pulling this out on three,” Bill said, before simply wrenching the spear free one handed. “Three,” he stated flatly, tossing the broken spear towards the pile of weapons Rekka was securing. The soldier bucked into a seated position, mouth open in a silent scream as he stared at Bill with shocked disbelief. Before he could recover, Bill pushed him back down and quickly poured a splash of the sanitizing alcoholic spirits into the wound. The man sputtered and howled as Bill held him down with one hand and waited for him to settle. “Stop squirming, this is probably good for you,” he said, not really caring if his nonexistent medical knowledge was causing more harm than good.
When the kid’s agonized howling subsided, he slumped back no longer resisting. Panting and whimpering he gratefully accepted the flask Bill offered, immediately draining the remaining spirit. Using a knife pulled from the soldier’s belt, Bill cut away fabric around the wound giving him access to the bloody oozing hole. It looked pretty nasty he had to admit and wasn’t certain if the bone was also broken. Likely there were bits of fabric stuck into the wound as well, doing it no good at all. For lack of any better idea Bill simply pressed a large wad of bandage over the hole and tied it securely with more bandages to hold it in place. Satisfied with a job done poorly, he turned his attention back to the young soldier.
“So, my names Bill, what’s yours?” Bill asked in a pleasant tone as he casually pointed his pilfered dagger towards the kid’s face, looming intimidatingly above him.
“Cluvius, sir. Felix Cluvius. You not going to kill me, are you?” he asked, eyes locked onto the dagger before him.
“Cluvius, huh? Sensing a pattern with all these -ius’s lately,” Bill said, “And no, Felix, I’m not going to kill you. Just answer my questions and you and the rest of your merry band of dickheads can limp home.”
Felix nodded eagerly, saying “Aye sir, I’ll answer best I can.” He seemed desperate to please, obviously terrified. Bill almost felt sorry for him but suppressed the feeling and continued his interrogation.
“First of all, what were you assholes doing out here?” Bill asked.
“We were to protect the Lord Flavius, sir. He’d told us we were to travel into the frontier until we found a proper tough monster,” he said, his eyes rolling to Rekka’s form. Currently, she was lying on her side next to her pile of looted weaponry. Legs splayed, Rekka was bent nearly double holding her thigh in the air as she enthusiastically used her tongue to clean herself. Bill and Felix took a moment to appreciate her flexibility.
Bill coughed and waved the dagger to regain Felix’s attention. It took two tries. “And why the fuck would you do that? Hunting pretty girls something you folks do for fun?” Bill said, his anger evident.
“No, sir! Lord Flavius wanted the weapon tested on a live monster,” he said.
“Weapon? You mean the musket. Don’t know if you noticed, but it didn’t work. Your friend blew himself up using it,” Bill said, slipping the dagger behind him. He picked up the cracked stock and waved it at Felix.
“Oh, poor Matius,” Felix moaned, sitting up painfully and searching until he saw the broken body. “He was so proud to be chosen to wield it,” he said sadly.
“Yeah, sucks to be him,” Bill said. “Only, he was aiming at my girlfriend when it happened. Those happy accidents occur often?” he asked.
“Your girlfriend?” Felix asked in surprise, looking around and seeing only Rekka. His face twisted with revulsion for a moment before he said, “Oh, yes, the monster. No, they used them many times on the archery butts. None ever exploded before. It’s supposed to throw a lead ball with amazing force into whatever you aim at.”
“Yeah, I know how guns work, you primitive screwhead,” Bill muttered, rankled by the monster remark. “Why would you march all the way out here to shoot at her, she’s not bothering anyone,” he demanded.
“Why, the war sir,” Felix said, as though that answered everything.
“War?” Bill prompted.
“The war with the monsters, sir? Lord Flavius said the weapon would change everything,” Felix replied eagerly. Then, frowning, Felix asked, “How do you not know these things?”
Bill sighed and said, “Let’s just say I’m not from around here. Never seen a ‘monster’ before last night, and far as I can tell she’s better company than you lot. Why not just leave them alone?”
Felix’s face twisted with anger and spat, “Ask your ‘girlfriend’. Every year there’s more of them and less of us. They constantly raid our villages and carry off men to spawn more of their vile kind. Soon there will be no humans left, it’s us or them!” He glared at Bill defiantly.
Bill’s brow rose in surprise and asked, “What, their own men not getting the job done?”
“You really don’t know?” Felix asked, looking at Bill as though he’d grown another head. “There aren’t any males. The monsters need to mate with human men to spawn their broods, which are always female,” he said as if talking to a child.
“Huh,” Bill said, not sure how to feel about that. All the times Rekka had gushed about puppies he’d assumed was just hopeful ignorance on her part. He hadn’t really considered that they could even be compatible in that way. Well, after last night he probably needed to start thinking about it pretty damn hard if Felix wasn’t bullshitting him.
Shaking his head, he decided it really didn’t matter just now. “Whatever, fuck you and your war. Just answer me this, can you read?” Bill asked, holding up the shattered stock, pointing at the writing etched into it.
“Aye, a bit,” Felix said, leaning closer to peer carefully at the writing. Shaking his head finally he said, “Never seen writing like this, doesn’t mean anything to me. The artificer was a strange fellow, though, maybe it’s his foreign lingo.”
Bill sighed, he’d been expecting something like that. “Where’s this artificer now?” he asked.
“Fort Carcere, where we’re stationed. Lord Flavius brought him down from the capital to make and test the weapons,” Felix said, clearly ashamed to be spilling his guts so freely, but desperate to keep himself usefully alive.
“Where is that from here, and how far?” Bill questioned.
“Well, I’m not entirely certain,” Felix said, looking around thoughtfully. “We’ve been traveling mostly south, I think, for five days. We followed Lord Flavius’s Huntstone seeking monsters. Mostly they evaded us, I think we were too well armed for any of them to consider attacking.” He frowned and looked over at the still smoking remains of his comrade. “Matius was a woodsman, he was to guide us back when we’d finished testing the weapon,” he said, worry creeping into his voice.
Bill snorted and said, “Shit luck for you and him both, buddy. What the hell is a hunt stone?”
“There, on my Lord’s saddle,” Felix said, waving at the horse, now on the other side of the clearing idly nibbling at the grass. “I’ve never used one, but a Huntstone will flash with light when pointed in the direction of a monster. The stronger the monster’s demonic energy, and the closer it is, the brighter it flashes,” he explained helpfully.
Bill nodded, remembering the odd little crystal Flavius had toyed with during their brief conversation. He’d have to grab that Huntstone when he looted those saddlebags and retrieved his stolen Multi-tool. Standing, he brushed the grass from his pants and said, “Well, that’s about it. I’d better go wake your friends and send you off.” Felix nodded wearily, lying back down to concentrate on the pain of his leg and feel sorry for himself.
Bill figured he’d wake Flavius first, try interrogating him to make sure Felix wasn’t lying or just an idiot. Also, that way the Lordly jackass could organize their ignominious retreat and save Bill the trouble.
Unfortunately, as he stood over the arrogant prick it became obvious he wasn’t going to be any help to anyone, ever again. The fall, or Rekka’s percussive maintenance, had broken the fool’s neck.
Bill turned to Felix and called, “Yo, Felix. Who’s second in command of this shitshow?”
Levering himself to one elbow, Felix called back, “Sergeant Tullius, sir. Why, is my Lord Flavius unwell?”
Bill snorted and prodded Flavius’s battered breastplate with his foot, responding, “You could say that. You could also say he’s stone dead. Broke his damn neck in that fall.” Felix choked back a sob and slumped to the ground.
Shrugging, Bill jogged over to Tullius and began softly jabbing him in the cheek with his boot. Finally, the man flinched awake, swatting at the offending boot. Tullius groaned, sitting up and clutching at his broken nose. Two impressive bruises were beginning to show around his eyes, looking like the mask of a raccoon.
“Wha’ ‘appened?” Tullius moaned, looking around. Sighting a grinning Rekka guarding their weapons he winced. Slowly his eyes turned up to Bill. “Shid,” he said, his broken nose affecting his speech.
“Shid is right, fucker. Flavor Lord and Matty are dead. You’re in charge, so gather the rest of these morons up and get the fuck out of our forest,” Bill said, prodding him again with his boot.
Standing, Tullius glared indignantly at Bill before pointing at the body of Flavius, asking permission. Bill waved him on and they approached together. Seeing the broken neck for himself, Tullius sank to his knees with a moan of despair. “Gods, my Lord. I’ll be hung,” he cried.
“Look at me,” Bill ordered, not feeling sympathy for his would-be murderer. Tullius tore his eyes away from his dead lord and glowered up at him. “You need to pull yourself together. You’ve got a long walk through ‘monster’ infested forest, and I personally can’t recommend traveling by night. Get your men up and start them moving,” he said coldly.
Tullius sighed and climbed to his feet. Glancing at Rekka’s treasure trove and then back to Bill he asked, “Our weapons?” with hope in his voice. Bill just snorted and shook his head. Despairing, Tullius asked, “The horse, at least? To carry my dead?” Bill considered this for a moment before, again, shaking his head. The last thing he wanted was one of them using the horse to ride for help and bring back a vengeful army.
“Sorry, Tully. Looks like you’re walking. You’re lucky I’m letting you keep your boots,” Bill said.
Tullius sighed in defeat, coming to terms with his fate he turned to rouse the three remaining soldiers. The one Rekka had knocked out with his own spear was clearly experiencing a remarkable concussion, but they managed to get him upright and moving in a nearly straight line. The crossbowman she had bowled over with her deer missile was doing slightly better, seeming to only suffer from a broken arm. The man that had shot Bill was grey-faced and breathing shallowly. It looked as though the sword Bill threw had cracked his sternum, agonizing but he was able to walk. Bill greatly enjoyed his pain.
Taking pity on Felix’s sad pained hopping, Bill cut him a crude crutch from a y-shaped branch. The least concussed soldiers decided that they were all too injured to be carrying the dead and would be forced to leave them. Bill promised to give them a decent burial, lying through his teeth.
With that, he tossed Tullius the pack of supplies and pointed in the direction he thought might be north. Honestly, he had no idea and just wanted them moving away with all possible haste. It was a terrible risk letting them go, but cold-blooded murder just wasn’t something he was capable of.
Watching them leave, Rekka crept up behind him and wrapped him in a hug from behind. He sighed, her familiar heat relaxing his tense muscles. “Do you think they’ll make it?” he asked her, running the fingers of one hand through the silken fur of her paws.
He felt Rekka shake her head against his back and reply, “Nuh-uh. Five unarmed men, an’ miles of mamono filled forest? They ain’t gonna get more’n a day before they’re run down an’ claimed.”
Bill nodded, he’d been counting on that based off of the things Felix had explained to him. “Mamono?” he asked.
“That’s what we call us, y’know? It’s what I am,” she said quietly. That was good to learn, Bill thought, better than referring to them collectively as monsters.
His stomach growled, startling them both in the quiet. He laughed and patted at her arm before pulling free.
“Let’s clear this mess up quickly, then I’ll get lunch started. We missed breakfast and I’m ready to eat that damn horse, but the deer will have to do,” he said, smiling down at Rekka. She grinned back at him, pulling his head down for a kiss before running to clear away the weapons and bodies.
“Then we have a lot, to talk about…” Bill muttered quietly to himself. Lifting the broken stock, he traced the text with one finger.
Boomstick Mk. II S/N 0003, it read in clear unmistakable English.
Bill turned the makeshift spit over the fire as the crudely butchered hunks of venison sizzled, filling the cave with a mouth-watering aroma. Not much of a chef, and being limited to the single ingredient of meat, he’d decided on simple venison shish kabobs. He readied another short sword, sliding chunks of deer flesh down its length before sprinkling a pinch of salt, courtesy of the Late Lord Flavius.
The deceased man’s saddlebags had been stuffed full of everything a noble crusader on the go might require. While stealing back his multi-tool Bill had found all sorts of useful odds and ends to make his life more comfortable, looting them with mercenary glee. Besides the package of salt, there had been shaving supplies and even an ivory comb. Bill could hardly contain himself from holding Rekka down right then and taming that unruly mess she called a hairstyle.
The straight razor had him a bit worried, but he didn’t dare ask Rekka to assist. He’d lost enough blood from that damnable bolt. The small bar of soap had been a cause for celebration on his part, and no matter how Rekka said she enjoyed his scent he was sure she’d change her mind given a few more days of camping. He’d tackle their grooming needs after lunch, likely literally in Rekka’s case. She had not seemed enthusiastic when he’d showed her the comb.
Aside from the quality of life contrivances, there had been the Huntstone. He’d examined it a bit and found it was more than just a crystal. There was a cleverly worked silver dial on one end with symbols he couldn’t understand etched onto it. He guessed they were numerals, not being long enough for words unless the written language of this world was a lot odder than his own. Unfortunately, whatever strange magic allowed him to understand the spoken language it apparently did not apply to the written. He’d experiment with the stone later, believing it could come in handy.
The horse itself was now wandering around the cave exterior enjoying its new-found freedom. It had taken a lot of patience on Bill and its part to get all the horse accessories off, but they’d persevered. It was lucky Bill had no intention of riding the thing because he was fairly certain the tangled mess was never going back on without professional help. He’d set the horse free to do as it wished, and so it did, wandering about eating grass and doing whatever horses did in their free time.
The other spoils of victory included three mostly broken spears, several short swords, two savagely smashed crossbows, Flavius’ absurdly large broadsword, and a set of nearly complete mail. The breastplate was useless after Rekka punched so many holes and dents in it, but the chain shirt Flavius had been wearing under it was a nice find. The gauntlets and bracers would come in useful if Bill decided to try catching any more arrows. The rest of the plate didn’t fit him, Flavius clearly having skipped leg day. Finally, a small heavy pouch of coins bearing the face of some king, probably, in denomination of gold, silver, and copper. All and all, it was really quite a haul for only his second day as a homicidal vagrant adventurer.
“It ready yet?” Rekka asked, not for the first time, with growing impatience. “I told ya I can eat it raw, jus’ hand it over,” she complained, staring at the sizzling meat with greedy eyes.
She was crouched down on all fours so close to the fire she might as well have been sitting in it, drops of drool dripping from her slavering jaws to sizzle on the stones encircling their little fire. Bill didn’t know how she could stand the heat and guessed it was another quirk of her hellhound nature.
“You ask that as though I’ve ever cooked venison over an open flame with a damned sword before,” retorted Bill, “And no, you’re not eating raw meat. It’s probably riddled with parasites.” Rekka just shrugged, unblinking eyes not leaving the sizzling meat. She’d begun to squirm and whine quietly, edging a bit closer to the flames.
Bill grumbled, tugging on a gauntlet to use as an oven mitt. Ripping a small more-or-less cooked piece of venison free, he tossed it to the totally-not-begging hellhound. Rekka snapped it out of the air with a snarl, barely chewing before gulping it down. She gasped in delight, placing her paws against her cheeks in awe.
“S’good! I ain’t had salt in… forever!” she exclaimed, tail wagging. “More! Gimme more, husband! You’re a great cook, the best!” she declared, crawling over and flipping onto her back across Bill’s lap, demanding to be spoiled. Deciding the meat was probably well enough done, Bill reached over her with the gauntlet for the sword with her portion on it and began to pull off chunks to feed her by hand. He didn’t bother to hide how much he was enjoying himself.
“Yow, don’t snap!” he said, jerking his fingers back from her. He was considering going for the other gauntlet if she kept that up.
“M’sorry, it’s so good,” she said, not sorry at all as she licked her lips and waited for the next morsel. He obediently complied with her demands, feeling a sense of joy to share in her profound happiness.
As he continued to feed Rekka, Bill wondered at what sort of existence she had led before they had met. Surviving this wilderness, living alone in a cave, he imagined it would have been heartbreakingly lonely for such a vibrant and gregarious young woman. Despite what may happen to him, stepping through that portal had been worth meeting Rekka and seeing her happy, he decided.
When Bill finished feeding Rekka the last of her meal and stoically allowing her to lick the grease from his fingers, she settled down contentedly into his lap to allow him to eat his own long denied lunch. Or was it dinner, now? he mused. He wasn’t certain how long they’d spent looting, dealing with the horse and getting the meal sorted out. Mentally shrugging, he tried a piece of flame-grilled venison shish-ka-sword. He had either also been magically gifted with culinary prowess, or hunger really was the best spice. Likely the latter, as you couldn’t really do much with meat, salt, and sword oil. Rekka watched him eat, a contented smile on her lips.
Later, their meal finished, Bill cleaned up by chucking the slightly singed swords into the pile of weaponry they’d pushed into one corner, out of the way. Now resting and enjoying their full bellies, with Rekka draped over his lap, they shifted into a comfortable silence. Bill took the time to explore one of Rekka’s more curious features, tentatively poking a finger through the waving fire trailing from one of her eyes. Surprisingly he found it only slightly warm and it flowed around his finger harmlessly. Rekka giggled and pulled his hand away, kissing his palm affectionately.
“Stop, that tickles,” she said, grinning up at him.
“What is it for, though?” he asked, caressing her cheek lightly, “I mean, it’s pretty, sure… but why do you have Saint Elmo’s fire in your eyes?”
“Dunno who that is, my eyes’r normal. All hellhounds have it,” she said, nuzzling into his palm. Bill considered teasing her a bit more but felt it was time to move onto more serious matters.
“Tell me about this war I seemed to have gotten myself mixed up in,” he said. Rekka tensed and curled into him, pressing her face into his shirt, shaking her head.
“No, that stuffs boring. Jus’ scratch my ears,” she demanded, not looking at him. Bill complied with that, only because he enjoyed it nearly as much as she did. He indulged her until she relaxed a bit, then pressed her again.
“Rekka, this is important. Since we’re going to be together I need to know what I’ve gotten myself into. How long has this been going on, and why are there only female mamono?” he asked, gently stroking her ears.
Eventually, still not looking at him she began to speak, “I only know what mama taught me, but sposedly humans and mamono have always been fightin’. A Demon Lord would get all powerful and send us to war with the humans, so we’d fight, kill, die, an’ ‘ventually a human hero would go forth and defeat the Demon Lord. Then things would be calm for a while until the next Demon Lord showed up. That happened a lot, over’n over. Only, we didn’t always look like this, an’ there was males. Way back then, long time ago, we really were monsters.” Rekka seemed uncomfortable revealing these things and fell silent. Bill continued to stroke her ears and hair until she continued.
“Then, the last Demon Lord came to power. Only, she was a succubus. They ain’t changed at all, really. Anyway, there was another war. We all fought an’ died again. An another stupid hero went off to kill the Demon Lord. Only this time they didn’t fight. She was real pretty, an’ I guess he was real dumb. So they falls in love, an’ the Demon Lord decided she loved all humans now. So, usin’ her fancy Demon Lord magics she cast a big spell. Turned all the mamono female, and, y’know… sexy. I guess she figured we’d all just fuck until we were one people, an stop the wars,” she said, clearly unimpressed with the whole plan.
“Something tells me that didn’t work out too well,” Bill prompted. Rekka scowled, shaking her head.
“Nuh uh. Her stupid spell didn’t work right, an’ everyone started noticin’ that only girl mamono were bein’ born. Meant they’d have to go find more husbands, even stealin’ them from human wives. Everyone got mad again, an’ they been fightin’ ever since. There ain’t been no peace or rest, an’ the human’s an dwarfs an elves are gettin’ madder an’ more scared,” she said, turning onto her back to look up at him, worry in her eyes. Bill leaned down to kiss her softly, comforting her.
“So, fewer humans are being born, since most of the men are busy shacked up with beautiful mamono raising more of them. A hell of a cycle,” Bill said with apprehension. “Now the humans are getting desperate. Making new weapons,” he ended gravely, staring at the broken stock leaning against the cave wall.
Bill supposed he couldn’t really blame them, they were in a race towards mutual extinction. If nothing changed, the mamono would simply outbreed the humans and then die off alone. Still, killing off Rekka and her people just wasn’t a solution he was willing to accept. Humanity just wasn’t that great in his opinion. A vague notion of a plan was formulating in his mind, he’d just have to convince Rekka it was a good one.
“Rekka, love, we’re going to need to visit this Fort Carcere. I need to speak with the guy who made that musket, and convince him to stop,” Bill said, waiting to see her reaction.
Rekka stiffened in his lap, eyes widening in surprise. “What for? Stupid thing just ‘sploded in his stupid face,” she said, whining, “We’ll just stay here’n mate! I want to have your puppies…” Rekka levered herself up and plopped herself back into his lap, facing him with her paws on his shoulders. Her eye fires began to flare as she tried to distract him with kisses.
Bill forced himself to pull away after a moment, placing a finger over her lips to shush her complaints. She promptly popped it into her mouth, sucking lewdly. Bill allowed that for longer than he probably should have before pulling it from her with a soft popping sound. Before she could try anything else he used his good arm to hold her back, raising an eyebrow and giving her a stern expression. Rekka glared back at him furiously, causing Bill a momentary pang of alarm.
“This ain’t fair!” Rekka wailed, “You ain’t sposed’ta be stronger than me! If you wasn’t so wonderful I’d be really mad, y’know…”
Rekka’s face crumbled and tears welled in her eyes, their fires winking out. Bill’s heart broke at the sight, pulling her into his embrace and stroking her hair until her sobs and yips quieted. Rekka sniffled a bit, clinging to him tightly with her face buried in his chest.
“I don’t want you to get hurt again. I can keep you safe here,” she whispered miserably, turning her head and stroking lightly around his bandages.
“Oh, Rekka. I know, beautiful. I’d be more than happy to just stay here with you always,” Bill said, “but things have changed now. No one will be safe if they keep making those weapons.”
He brought Rekka’s head up to gently wipe the tears from her face. “We have them, and worse, in my world. We call them the great equalizer. No matter how strong, or fierce, or brave you are, they will kill and do it with ease. That one may have been defective but, I promise you, they’ll keep trying until they get it right. Then no mamono will be safe. Every soldier they can field will carry them, and this war will be over,” he said with conviction, hoping to persuade her of the danger and the steps needed to confront it.
Rekka stared into Bill’s eyes, her expression despondent. Finally, she appeared to make a decision, giving him a wan smile and saying, “Well, okay… since you’re so scared of that stupid stick, I’d better go beat up the asshole makin’ them for ‘ya. You’re comin’ with, I don’t want you out of my sight again, husband.”
Bill chuckled, embracing her and scratching behind an ear. “Thanks, love, you’ve really set my mind at ease,” he said and meant it. If she’d put her foot down and told him they were going to stay here and watch the world burn, he’d probably do just that. The apocalypse just wasn’t worth any more of Rekka’s tears.
Rekka grinned, her usual cheerful demeanor back in full force. “Thank me by losin’ those pants, husband! We ain’t leavin’ today, an we got a lot a time to make up for those jerks wastin’ before,” she said eagerly, having somehow undone his belt without his notice and now tugging at his boots.
Bill chuckled and leaned over to untie his laces before she decided to just rip them apart like his ill-fated boxers but stopped her after she’d pulled them off and started working on his pants.
“Just a second, Rekka. You’ve called me ‘husband’ a few times now. When did we get married, hmm?” he asked, though not unkindly while holding onto her paws. Rekka suddenly looked uncertain, and even a little hurt.
“But… We did it. You liked it! Don’t you… want me?” she asked, looking small and lost, her ears and tail drooping forlornly.
Bill huffed out a breath, saying, “God, liking it wasn’t even a question. Woman, you damn near broke me last night.” Pulling Rekka forward, he gazed adoringly into her strange, beautiful fiery eyes. “Of course I want you, Rekka, never question that,” he said lovingly and Rekka seemed to melt, a wide grin spreading across her face. “Marriage is just a little different where I come from. Normally we prefer to take it slow, and it usually involves an official ceremony with all our friends and family there to celebrate the union,” he explained.
Rekka smile faltered. “I ain’t got a family anymore. No friends, neither. All I have is you,” she said wistfully, squeezing his hands in her furry paws, looking at him, the love plain in her eyes.
Bill briefly thought to press her on her missing family, but the sudden lump in his throat made him realize he was through seeing her unhappy. Clearing his throat, he said, “Well, fuck it, you’re it for me, too. Hell with the damn ceremony. If anyone asks, I begged you to make an honest man of me. We’re eloping, wife.”
The hellfire in Rekka’s eyes blossomed with her happiness, but it was her radiant smile that lit up the room. She leapt into his arms with a growl, smothering him in licks and kisses, excited whimpers escaping from her throat.
“Oh, husband! Yes! I love you, love you, love you!” she cried, “We’ll have so many puppies! All of them! An you’ll love them, too. We will! Even if one is small, you’ll love her just as much, cause she’s just as tough. Yeah! An’ they’ll be so strong. Like you! An’ no one will ever hurt them. Yes! My husband. Mine!” Rekka was beside herself, squeezing him and kissing with delirious intensity.
Bill listened happily to Rekka gush, gamely trying to keep up with her lips, holding her tightly as his own heart swelled. He’d never given much thought to marriage, much less children. He found himself looking towards the future with excitement, a rarity for him. Bill prayed Rekka never wised up and realized she could do so much better, but he’d do his damnedest to keep her happy until she did. He hoped the kids took after their mother, the world needed more of her effortless cheer and beauty. It certainly didn’t need any more cynical pricks.
Bill’s mind was made up, he felt it was time to prove to Rekka how he felt about her. Standing, he scooped her up with both arms as she yelped and giggled. Ignoring the pain in his arm, he carried her over to the furs and lay her gently down. Standing over her, he lifted his shirt off, tossing it carelessly behind him. Seeing this Rekka gasped and began to shimmy out of her own scant clothing, whimpering with anticipation. Bill dropped his jeans, peeled off his socks and kicked them all over to his boots.
He was taking the lead this time, maybe that way he could wear out, instead. He meant to see Rekka moaning and begging him this time. Rekka spread her legs and gazed up at him, biting her lip, eyes half-lidded with lust as she breathed in his scent with a shuddering breath. Nudging her tail out of the way, Bill lowered himself between Rekka’s legs. She moaned shamelessly as he palmed her hot mound, finding it wet and wanting. Wasting no time with foreplay, he lined himself up, immediately slamming into her with one thrust.
Christ, Bill thought, this is going to be tough. How can she be so tight, so hot?
Rekka barked out a delighted gasp, hooking her legs around his waist and locking them together possessively. Leaning over her he kissed her deeply, tongue pushing heedlessly past her fangs to grapple with her own. Moments later he pulled away, grinning to match her own toothy smile. Then he pulled back slowly, her molten folds clinging to him as tightly as her legs. Finally, he began to thrust.
“Oh, fuck. My husband! Yes, harder!” Rekka cried, positively thrilled for him to take charge in this way. Maybe this is what she had wanted all along, Bill thought, grinning to himself as he sped up his pace. He watched her face intently, trying to ignore his own pleasure, gauging her reactions. She flung her paws around his neck, holding on while she panted up at him with each thrust, eyes wide and mouth slack with desire.
Falling to his elbows, he grabbed her hair in his right hand, twisting to bare her neck to him as he clamped down with his teeth, hard enough to really feel it but not mar her perfect skin. Rekka drew in a hissing breath, locking still for a split second.
“Fuck, I love you,” she growled, relaxing as she breathed out, hanging loosely from him as he continued to pound her relentlessly into the furs. Conversely to her slackened limbs, her folds squeezed him impossibly tighter.
Growling with the intensity of their passion himself, Bill sensed she was close. Clenching his left hand into a fist, trying to distract himself from the pleasure with the pain of his wound. It worked, barely. Rekka began to whimper, screwing her eyes closed as her hips ground against his thrusts, losing herself in her pleasure. Bill decided to move in for the kill, still steadily thrusting into her, he loosed his teeth from her neck and brought his lips to her ear. Whispering fervently, Bill said, “Come for me, Rekka. My wife.”
Howling, Rekka came, unaware as her claws dug slightly into the back of Bill’s neck. He was thankful for the distraction, focusing on the pain to stave off his own eruption. Rekka shuddered and jerked her hips, thrashing her head from side to side. Bill carried her through, steadily slowing his thrusts as she began to relax, sighing into the furs. Her eyes remained shut as she enjoyed the pleasurable tremors running through her body. Smiling down at her possessively, Bill applauded himself for managing to hold himself back from joining her in release.
Not waiting for her to recover, making the most of his unnatural stamina, Bill levered himself up and began to thrust with renewed intensity. Rekka opened her eyes, gasping in surprise. He only grinned down at her, smugly enjoying his moment of victory.
This is going to work, he thought, I can do this!
Elsewhere, five suffering men trudged through a steadily darkening twilit forest. They were having a much less enjoyable time; exhausted misery lay upon them like a cloak.
“Steady on, lads. We’ll get through this yet,” Sergeant Tullius said, voice pitched low to avoid carrying too far but filled with confidence to inspire his men. A confidence he did not feel, his thoughts heavy, knowing even if they made it back to the fort he would be punished severely for the death of Lord Flavius, and the loss of the weapon. He hoped to shield his men from sharing in his punishment, but the severity of the loss would likely mean his superiors would be spreading the blame as far as they could. They’d need someone to blame, distancing themselves from repercussions further up the chain.
Choking back an angry laugh, he believed it was unlikely to ever come to that. They were almost certain to be lost to these black woods and the demons lurking within. At least no one would know of his disgrace. Walking backward, he surveilled the troop, worry eating at his mind but not showing on his veteran’s expression of cool indifference. They had not made good time, having to stop early and often due to the myriad injuries they’d sustained in the brawl with the monster and its traitorous human lover.
Once again, he cursed inwardly at that awful man and his horrible hellhound. If only he had been faster, he felt, taken him more seriously. Then perhaps he could have dispatched the idiot and linked up with his squad. Maybe then they would have been able to take the hellhound, even without the useless weapon.
Poor, stupid Matius, Tullius thought, fury rising. He’d been warned about adding too much of the volatile powder, but the fool had liked to push the limits. Now his zeal had caught up with him, and they were left without his expert wilderness experience. Tullius silently cursed the mad fool but mourned him all the same. He’d been a well of optimistic good cheer while he’d guided them in the past, and they could have used him now.
Turning his attention to young Cluvius, bringing up the rear, his lips thinned with anxiety. Felix was not looking well. His pace had slowed considerably since they had started, his pale face set with grim determination as he pushed himself onward. They had changed the bandages twice now, and his blood had soaked through them both, staining his pant leg a deep red. Tullius was certain the bone itself was fractured, but Felix gamely persevered, not wanting to slow them down. The boy certainly had heart, he admitted to himself.
Next, he observed corporal Ranius as the man plodded steadily onward, his breath coming in short gasps as he held his palms lightly to his chest. The crack to his sternum must have been torture, but as usual, he uttered no complaint. The man was a professional and a veteran, he’d quietly die before he voiced his pain uselessly while in the field. Once they were safely back at the fort, he’d change his tune and reward them all with his laconic wit, making light of his injury. Although, of all of them, Tullius was certain Ranius knew returning was an unlikely event to take place. He’d been around nearly as long and seen too many men pulled screaming into the night by the demons in areas far more secure than they now found themselves.
The last of his soldiers were carrying on well, the slight Menius even seemed to be enjoying himself, gazing about with interest as he gently guided the concussed Gavius along with his unbroken arm. Menius had always been an odd sort and often made himself available for some of the more hazardous patrols. Perhaps he simply enjoyed the thrill of danger, in which case he must now be having the time of his life. Still, the man did not shirk his duty, faithfully herding Gavius forward, speaking softly as he maneuvered the man around obstacles.
Tullius was concerned for Gavius, strikes to the head were curious injuries. He might simply shake himself from his stupor or never recover at all. The worst of it was, Tullius couldn’t tell exactly how badly the man was affected. Gavius was new to his squad, a volunteer from one of the more secure townships further north. Highly unusual for anyone to request a transfer to such a desolate place as Fort Carcere. Even the garrulous Matius had only ever managed to winkle out from him a terse sob story involving a woman. Otherwise, Gavius followed orders, never engaging in idle conversation and morosely keeping his problems to himself.
Stoically containing his worry, turning forward Tullius continued to lead his men, knowing they would need to hunker down somewhere inconspicuous to wait out the night. He moved them into a strand of larger trees upon a slight elevation with the vain hope that they might be able to see danger coming, though what they would do without arms he had no clue.
Tullius moved forward, his thoughts turning angrily to Lord Flavius. The arrogant noble bastard just could not have waited for some damned monster to strike around the fort, as they did without fail at regular intervals. No, he’d cursed the wasted time, wanting to prove himself the great hero that ended the war for his masters, ensconced safely in the capital. It had been by his orders this fool’s errand had been organized, and Tullius distractedly cursed the man’s memory as he crossed between two great oaks into the dark center of the thicket.
Tullius strode face first into a springy substance, bringing him to a bouncing halt. He tried and failed to lift his arms to push it back and found himself stuck firm to its surface.
“Stop, move back,” he ordered his men, struggling heroically to remove himself, stopping as he realized he was only wrapping himself tighter.
Sensing movement, he strained his neck against his bonds to peer into the trees above him. His eyes widened with creeping horror as the dark mass lowered itself with fluid grace.
“Gods, not like this…” he whispered, as the many spindly legs curled, beckoning.
Felix gasped in shock as Tullius inexplicably flew upwards into the dark canopy.
“Sergeant!” he cried, limping forward only to be stopped by corporal Ranius’s out flung arm.
“No use… he’s gone… we can’t help him,” he gasped painfully, his words coming haltingly, “…keep… moving.”
Felix could only gape, mute with horror as he stared into the shadowed branches. He simply could not believe his capable sergeant could be gone, just like that. From somewhere above him a richly malevolent feminine laughter drifted down, along with the fast fading struggles of the brave sergeant Tullius.
Hanging his head, cursing his uselessness, Felix struggled to catch up to his retreating mates.
Back in the cave, Bill’s plan was moving forward splendidly. He’d since pulled Rekka to her feet, leaning her forward into the cave wall as he thrust ardently from behind. She’d long since given up speech, and now simply encouraged him with her grunts and delighted moans. Bill had a grip on her tail, pulling her roughly onto him as she gasped and shuddered before him. The hand of his wounded arm kneaded the soft cheek of her ass possessively, occasionally giving it a sharp smack, ignoring the pain from his arm as she gasped and thrust back at him with lurid approval.
Not bad, he thought proudly, only lost myself twice to her own four screaming orgasms, I can keep this up. She’s bound to be running out of steam!
He leaned over her slender back to grasp her swinging breasts, tweaking her hard, burning nipples harshly. Rekka yipped, arching her back, craning her neck to kiss him gratefully. Bill eagerly met her lips, his hips relentlessly thrusting and grinding into her hot, slick folds. Rekka shuddered and yelped as she slid helplessly into another quivering climax, her claws striking sparks along the stone walls. Bill manfully continued to pound away at her, guiding her through her pleasure with gritted teeth.
Somehow, he managed to keep himself from coming. Panting, he pushed himself back upright to claim her tail again. Leering down at her, drunk with success, his thrusts continued incessantly as he listened to the sweet music of her breathless contented moaning.
I’ve got her on the ropes, now! he thought triumphantly, if I’m this tired, I know she’s close to dropping.
His confident thoughts cheered him, knowing Rekka would be more cautious of rousing his lust once she’d recovered from this.
Ranius marched onward, trying to ignore the crushing pain in his chest. Every shallow gasp was a battle he endured, victory achieved by not groaning and distressing his comrades. Ranius sorely missed the solid leadership of Tullius. The man would have continued to lead the others through sheer willpower alone. Ranius had been considering dropping back, ostensibly to check their backtrail. Instead, he’d be giving up to rest in misery, trusting the sergeant to see the others through. That fleeting fancy had been ripped from him as Tullius disappeared into the canopy. Now, the mantle of command fell to him, and he’d see his duty to its painful conclusion.
Scanning about, Ranius knew they had long since needed to stop and rest, soon he’d simply drop from exhaustion. Spotting a circle of trees, he decided it would have to do. He waved at the others, not straining himself to speak, and trudged over to a trunk to slide himself painfully down to sit. It would all be over soon, he imagined. Either they’d wake in the morning, miraculously unmolested, or the monsters would soon attack and end this farce. He closed his eyes, unable to make himself care any longer.
Menius carefully maneuvered Gavius into the clearing, leaving him to stand absently in the open, looking confused but otherwise content to wait. Going back, he drew Felix’s arm over his shoulder and helped him the last few yards. Felix simply leaned into a tree trunk, unable to consider bending his injured leg to settle down, panting with exhaustion.
Looking about with curiosity, Menius absently pulled a wedge of cheese from a small sack tied to his belt, offering it to the others who failed to show any interest. Shrugging, he took a bite, squatting next to Ranius and waiting for something exciting to happen, fidgeting at his broken arm in its sling. Of them all, Menius was the least worried about the monsters. He’d known it was always likely he’d be hauled off by some insatiable beast and optimistically looked forward to it. He’d often speculated with Matius about what it’d be like, claimed by some pretty monster, forced into a sexual plaything for the rest of his days. He didn’t know what all the fuss was about, really.
Damn shame about Matius, he thought, he was always good for a laugh.
Menius’s head perked up as barks and growls surrounded their little camp. Leaning over, he nudged at Ranius, who ignored him to glare steadily at nothing. Felix pushed himself away from the tree, nervously glancing about.
“Corporal Ranius, sir?” he asked anxiously.
The man ignored him as well, thoroughly done. Menius chuckled, shaking his head.
“Best pack it in, lad,” he said with humor, “we’re good as caught. Try to enjoy yourself, least they don’t sound like spiders.”
He watched with interest as several shadows sauntered in, revealing three scantily clad women, greyish fur on their arms and legs, sporting oversized paws, wolf ears, and tails. Not hellhounds, luckily. Their skin was pale and no fire trailed from their yellow eyes. Werewolves, he guessed and quite beautiful to Menius’s eyes, mercifully no equal to the horror that’d stolen good old Tullius away.
With a barking laugh, the leader of them said, “Yes, boy. Listen to him, he’s a smart one.”
She strutted up to Felix, who flinched back against the tree trunk, fear in his eyes. The woman smiled sweetly at him, taking in his scent. She frowned and knelt down to sniff at his leg.
“Oh, wow. That’s a sorry wound. Beginning to turn, I’d say.” Standing she shrugged apologetically and said, “Sorry, pretty boy. You won’t be coming with us, we’re no healers.”
Felix sucked in a startled breath, surprised to be so easily dismissed. She ignored him to stalk over to Menius’s squatting form.
She pushed Menius over with one of her foot paws, sending him onto his back. Crouching over him she began to sniff him with enthusiasm.
“Watch the arm, love, I twisted it a mite earlier,” Menius quipped, eyes roving over her body with interest.
Finishing with her inspection she smiled down at him and began licking his face as he sputtered.
Another werewolf, shorter and slight of build was staring up into Gavius face, her body language more timid and uncertain. Reaching over she grasped one of his limp hands, holding it in both of her paws. Gavius’s eyes seemed to focus on her and he breathed in sharply with surprise.
“Sabina, you’ve come back to me!” he cried, engulfing the startled werewolf in a hug as he sobbed, clinging to her.
The leader stopped her frenzied licking of Menius to look over at them. “Her names not Sabina, stupid, it’s Millie,” she said, laughing.
Millie now returned the hug happily, enjoying his arms around her. Shyly, she called back, “It’s okay… he can call me Sabina, if he wants to.”
The largest werewolf, her features more savage than the other two, was kneeling before Ranius, who pointedly ignored her.
She sniffed him confidently, and huskily declared, “Strong silent type, eh? I love it when they play hard to get.”
As she began to press her paw to his chest he suddenly slapped it away, grunting in pain.
“Don’t… touch,” he gasped, finally looking up at her. Her eyes narrowed and she began to growl threateningly.
Menius rolled his head over, giving his werewolf the opportunity to lick his ear now, and said, “Don’t mind Ranius, missy, he took a hell of a hit to the chest in our little dust up earlier. He could use a holiday, and some tender loving care.”
Ranius’s head swiveled to glare daggers at Menius, who grinned with the shameless ease of a man who’d broken free from the chains of command.
The large werewolf’s growl cut off, her features softening slightly. She scooped up Ranius and held him gently to her impressive bosom, carrying him like a bride. Ranius just sighed, closed his eyes and leaned his head into her breast, completely out of fucks to give.
The leader then hopped to her feet, and pulled Menius to his, suddenly flipping him onto her shoulder with ease.
“Let’s take them back to the den, sisters. I told you this was a lucky night for a hunt!” she crowed, laughing merrily.
As she began to jog out into the night, Menius’s head bouncing along jauntily behind her, he craned his neck up to look back at Felix, shouting, “Good luck, lad! If you make it back to base tell the warden to go soak his head for me!”
He cackled then, waving his good arm in farewell.
The large werewolf followed, moving carefully so as to not jostle Ranius, who had begun to snore. Millie went last, staring up adoringly into Gavius’s eyes as they strolled hand in paw into the dark.
Felix stared glumly at their parting backs, lost as what to do, now totally alone.
Close by an owl hooted with sympathy.
Bill was on cloud nine, his heart hammered in his chest, his throat parched, he panted loudly as he clung to Rekka’s back, sweat pouring off his brow from the intense heat of her body and their shared exertion.
That last one had been a doozy. Rekka hadn’t even howled. She’d simply slid down the wall to land on her elbows, shivering and moaning, clenching him violently and wringing his shuddering release from him forcefully. He wondered at how she remained conscious after all the times he forced her to come. He’d honestly lost count, his own had been wrung from him relentlessly as well, but he felt assured that the end was near, and he was winning.
Surely, she couldn’t have much more in her. She’d be forced to beg him to stop, he had to believe it. Pulling himself together, he slowly lifted himself back up, blearily blinking the sweat from his eyes and grasping her hips in his cramping hands.
Once more, Bill thought with brittle confidence, that will end this.
Felix could go no further. His leg had gone numb and cold, though somehow the pain still throbbed up his hip with increasing intensity. Lifting his head slowly to peer around him, he found he was in a moonlit glade. Flowers bloomed around him, and the grass waved invitingly in the breeze. It was as good a place to lie down and die as any he supposed wearily. Slowly, wincing at every shift, he slid down his crutch, pain lancing through his body as he thumped into the grass.
Wracked by painful sobs he tried to choke back, he collapsed onto his back to gaze at the stars. He thought how beautiful the night sky was before closing his eyes and wishing to fade into painless oblivion.
It was not to be. Soft footfalls could be heard entering the glade, followed by a breathy gasp. Felix kept his eyes shut hoping they’d just go away and leave him be as the werewolves had. He was dying, he knew, and no use to anyone. His hopes were dashed as she began to speak, her voice soft, musical and achingly beautiful.
“Oh my, are you alright, sir?” she asked, concern welling from her like a fountain.
Felix heard her begin to move closer, the steps timid, her odd gait confusing to his ears. Finally, she made her way to his side, he felt her standing over him, listening to her murmur with apprehension above him.
“Oh dear, oh dear… He is injured. Can you hear me? Might I aid you, sir?” she asked, her gentle voice curled into his ears soothingly. He opened his eyes, his heart nearly stopping at the sight.
The young maiden’s hair shone in the moonlight, hanging to her waist, a river of pure shimmering white. Her large, expressive eyes glowed with concern as they gazed into his. Two long ears twitched and fluttered, curving off to the sides of her head, tipped with a bit of white fur. A short, spiraling horn sprouted from her forehead, glimmering luminously in the moonlight.
She’s beautiful, Felix thought, unable to break his eyes away from her face.
“Oh my!” the young woman squeaked cutely, blushing prettily and covering her face with her hands.
Felix realized he’d said that aloud, finding his own cheeks warming in response.
Peeking between her fingers, she broke her eyes from his to look over his leg. Coughing delicately, she lowered her hands, then sank gracefully to her knees, drawing them to her side. Felix noted that she seemed to be sitting higher than normal and rolled his eyes to look behind her.
Her lower body was that of a horse, though a very slim and graceful one. Her coat was the same pure white as her hair, tufts of fur sprouting above her small delicate hooves.
Felix realized she was yet another monster. Although he found the label difficult to apply to this beautiful, gentle, and graceful creature. When he finished gazing over her lower body he saw that she was watching him with a slight smile, waiting for his attention.
“Sir, you are wounded. Might I have your leave to aid you?” she asked, gentle concern radiating from her tone. “You have my promise, no harm will come to you under my care,” she said soothingly, her fingers plucking anxiously at her skirt as she waited for him to respond.
Felix simply nodded at her, not trusting himself to speak. Her radiant smile rendered him speechless soon after, regardless.
Turning from him, she raised her palms over his leg, brow furrowing in concentration. Her horn began to glow with its own inner light and she whispered in a language Felix didn’t understand but sounded to him more like singing than speech.
Immediately, the pain in his leg vanished, replaced by a warmth radiating throughout his entire body, relaxing him completely. He tried vainly to keep his eyes open, not wanting to let the beautiful vision to leave him so soon.
“Hush now, everything is well. I will watch over you. Rest, and when you wake, everything will be better,” she said, her gentle confident voice lulled Felix to sleep, a smile upon his lips.
Bill roared, emptying himself inside Rekka with one last grinding thrust. She was no longer kneeling, she’d long since fallen to her belly, arms and legs spread limply along her sides. Rekka’s body twitched and quivered, her breath panting and quick as she recovered from her latest, and hopefully last orgasm of the night.
Bill dragged himself from her, causing her to twitch and squeak, and flopped down next to her on his back. Breathing deeply, his grin a rictus of exhausted triumph, he beamed at the ceiling, reveling in his undeniable victory. He’d bested her, finally. She hadn’t begged, sure, but he was magnanimous in her defeat and allowed her to keep her pride as she lay there a limp, quivering, and fully satiated hellhound. He closed his eyes and relaxed.
Reaching over, wanting to fall asleep with her in his arms, he found her missing. His eyes flashed open in a panic as he saw Rekka standing above him, stretching, her tail wagging happily.
“That was great! You’re so good ta me, husband! With you doin’ all the work, I got to relax and really feel it. Now we can just keep goin’!” she said, her eyes gleaming, breathing easily, no sign of the slightest bit of weariness on her body.
Bill remained silent, praying for an aneurysm to take him away from all this. Rekka crouched over him, gently pressing her lips to his, before slowly moving down his body trailing passionate kisses along the way. Rekka giggled to herself happily as she began to lick at his tender, abused manhood.
“I love you, husband,” she said, completely unaware of the turmoil she was causing in his mind.
Voice hoarse with weariness, Bill replied, “Love you, wife.”
Rekka whimpered with dread, her misery total as the terrible man continued to torture her. She struggled vainly against his brute strength, but escape was impossible. She questioned despairingly where her gentle loving husband had gone, leaving her with this despicable unfeeling beast.
“Oh, quit your bitching, I’m nearly done,” Bill said, wheedling yet another knot free from the handful of damp hair he held in his fist.
The wholly insufficient comb struggled valiantly against the hellhounds fluffy mane that had been more tangle than tress when they’d begun. Likely the little ivory instrument had been meant for its previous owner’s curling mustache. Bill adapted to its shortcomings, the job was just too important to him.
Rekka’s struggles increased, her whimpers turning to vexed snarls, as she tried to pry his legs from around her waist, currently holding her hostage by the stream bank.
Bill sighed, the morning had started off so wonderfully, too.
When they woke Bill peeled himself from the furs after their night of debauchery and broke their fast on more venison. Once again he fed Rekka first with her lying in his lap, entrenching a tradition that would likely follow them throughout the unconventional relationship.
Bill didn’t mind, nearly everything Rekka did served to endear her to him more. Perhaps he just enjoyed pampering women, though none of his previous relationships had mirrored this in the least. Probably explained why they hadn’t lasted.
When he finished feeding himself and saw that Rekka was distracted by chewing on the meaty bone he’d roasted for just this occasion, Bill bent to the herculean task of taming Rekka’s hair. Bill certainly found her tangled mop attractive in a savage barbarian sort of way, but when he imagined it groomed and free of debris he knew it would be glorious. He’d readily admit he was entirely obsessed by this point, though he’d never paid much attention to a woman’s hair before. Another point in the poor prior relationship tally.
Bill committed to his mission with single-minded determination. He ignored the tangles, for now. There were just too many, set in their ways with no desire to change. A few had grown powerful and cunning, likely older than his boots and wise to his tricks. He’d not attack them until after the bath he’d planned for her next, soaking them thoroughly until they loosened with the help of a little soap. Instead, he simply wanted to remove the detritus that had accumulated from her daily roving about the wilderness.
A growing pile of twigs and dry leaves grew as he labored. Among the more surprising finds was the small desiccated corpse of a lizard, having spent its final desperate moments in battle with one of the craftier tangles. Bill tugged if free at last, turning it over in his hands, fascinated by the look of horror on its reptilian visage.
So intense was his scrutiny he was surprised when he realized that Rekka had begun humming quietly. She seemed to be relishing the attention he lavished upon her, eyes closed and completely relaxed. The formerly meaty bone, now stripped clean, lay under her paw as she gently rolled it back and forth.
Bill smiled to himself, taking most of her hair in his hands and shaking it a bit, interested to see if any other lost woodland creatures tumbled forth. None did, likely the tangles held them fast, guarding their prizes jealously.
Job complete, he scratched at Rekka’s ears and scalp, enjoying her closeness and listening to her hum for a bit.
“Glad you enjoyed that as much as I did,” he commented.
Rekka’s eyes popped open, and she twisted about until she was lying on her back in his lap, a slight smile on her lips.
“Yeah… My papa used to do that for me when I was small. I hated it then, didn’t like sittin’ still. I’d rather be wrestlin’ or playin’,” she said softly, seeming to lose herself in her bittersweet memory. Finally, she focused on him again.
“Now it’s… nice,” she said, smiling warmly.
Reaching for her paws he pulled her up to him, kissing her gently for a moment before pushing his legs under himself and drawing them both to their feet.
“C’mon, let’s get cleaned up. I’m dying to try out that soap, and you can watch me use that straight razor. I may need you patch me back up,” he said lightly, truthfully worried about the razor, but mostly he was waiting to see how she reacted to the prospect of a bath.
He didn’t relish the prospect of dragging a disgruntled hellhound into the water. He’d do it, though, he’d have that hair combed yet.
“Kay!” Rekka replied, pulling free and happily skipping towards the exit.
Bill shook his head, amused. He really shouldn’t have been surprised, of course she bathed regularly. He knew from experience that she was clean enough to eat off of. It seemed she just didn’t worry too much about her hair. Well, from now on that would be his cross to bear.
Bill took a moment to gather up the little pile of debris and place it onto the glowing embers of the fire, dropping the dried lizard on top. It would serve as its pyre and send the brave little warrior’s soul off to Valhalla.
Snatching up a saddlebag he’d filled with toiletries and their spare bandages he jogged to catch up with Rekka. She waited for him in the morning sunlight. Linking her arm through his they strolled to the stream.
When they arrived, he unwound the bandages to inspect his wound. It seemed alright to him, far less blood soiled the bandages than expected, and it wasn’t leaking anything green or noxious. Itched like the devil, though he managed to resist. It was not paining him nearly as much as he was expecting. Rekka sniffed it a bit and proclaimed it to be healing nicely.
They undressed, Rekka tossing her strips of leather one could generously call an outfit onto the pile Bill had gathered into his arms. Laundry was apparently his duty as well. She ran into the water, screeching and laughing from the cold as she ducked into the waterfall. Grabbing the soap, Bill followed at a more sedate pace, enjoying the view.
Bathing with Rekka was an experience. He was glad for the cold water, otherwise he was certain his physical response to seeing a nude Rekka, her wet skin sparkling in the sunlight as she splashed joyously through the little waterfall, would have been all the excuse she needed to delay their impending trip for another day.
He quickly scrubbed their clothing out while she played, then set them aside and pulled her close. They delighted in washing each other’s bodies, taking much more time than was really necessary to scrub the other clean. Bill was honestly surprised her breasts weren’t polished to a mirror sheen when he finally relented.
At last, he got to her hair, using a good portion of the bar of soap to lather her to his satisfaction. He worked at her scalp and locks diligently, trying to ignore Rekka’s ass pressing into him as she luxuriated in the sensations his hands were giving her.
Bill glared at her hair with mad intensity, trying to will the tangles into surrendering their hold. Right now, he’d butcher a round table of knights for a bottle of conditioner. Not fully satisfied but beginning to lose feeling in his extremities from the cold despite Rekka’s warmth, he rinsed her clean and together they exited the stream.
While Rekka shook her body dry in a spray of droplets Bill laid out their clothing in the sun, pausing to watch her keenly as she gyrated. When the show ended he pulled out the straight razor and used a bit more of the soap to lather his face. Hesitantly he drew the razor across his stubble. Finding no blood when he felt the smooth skin he began to shave, becoming more confident as he went. Finishing, and only nicking himself twice, he rinsed himself off. Rekka cooed as she rubbed the pads of her paws over his now smooth face.
After she assisted him in redressing his wound Bill sat Rekka down in front of him to comb her hair. At first, she was pleased for him to pay her more attention. Until he lost his grip on her damp hair, tugging her scalp when the comb hit a snag.
She’d have leapt away and be done with the whole process if he hadn’t locked his legs around her and held her tight.
Now, the real fight would begin as she howled and protested his every stroke. Bill refused to yield, he would not be denied.
“Finished!” Bill said with a cry of triumph, sliding the comb free and flexing his cramping fingers.
It had finally begun slipping smoothly through her hair without snagging. He beheld her long silky black tresses, his great work complete, his joy boundless.
Rekka had gone still, her protests silenced. A trap, he knew. She was planning her revenge, waiting for him to lower his guard. He’d have to act swiftly to avoid whatever dire plot she’d concocted. Stretching over to his boot he pulled out his phone, tapping quickly to open the front-facing camera.
Ready, he relaxed his grip on Rekka with his legs. Immediately she jumped to her feet and wheeled on him, a ferocious look in her eyes. Bill held up the phone before him like a talisman.
“Just take a look before you do anything I’ll regret for the rest of my life,” he said swiftly, praying she wouldn’t just slap it away and take her vengeance.
Rekka’s eyes glanced at the phone, then back to him. His heart quailed for a moment, but her eyes drew back to the phone and she inched forward a bit for a better look, now curious. Her lips parted, astonished at what she saw.
Bill expelled a relieved breath, and struggled to his feet awkwardly, still holding the phone up to her as she now twisted and turned trying to see her hair from every angle.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked as she posed.
Ignoring him Rekka drew her shiny hair over her shoulder to look at it directly, amazed at how it curled, flowed and reached nearly to her waist. She ran her claws through it, a delighted smile playing on her lips.
Bill handed her the phone and showed her how she could angle it around for a better view. He watched her with pride as she twirled, laughing. Her hair flowed behind her like a glossy cloak, amazing her at how it fell to her tail when she stood still. Satisfied, she handed him back his phone and pressed herself to him, her face in his chest.
Quietly she said, “Thank you, husband.”
Then she dug her claws into his sides, looking up at him with cold intensity. Bill whimpered and held still.
“Next time, be more gentle!” she hissed, waiting for his pained nod before letting him go and smiling sweetly up at him.
“It won’t be nearly as bad, I swear. You really should have taken better care of your hair, but from now on it’ll go a lot smoother as long as we keep at it,” he said, rubbing at his sides, amazed to see she hadn’t drawn blood.
“Okay, but if you’re lyin’ I’ll make you sorry. That was awful! But wow, look at it! Never knew my hair could be so pretty,” She said, twirling again to watch it flow.
“Well, I’m glad you’re happy, I’ve been dying to do that since we met,” he said, turning his back to pull on his pants.
Rekka came up behind him and placed a paw on his back. Curious, he looked around at her but she was still staring at his back.
“What is it?” he questioned.
“What’s that drawin’ on your back for?” she asked, curious.
“Shit,” Bill swore, flushing with embarrassment as he turned back to his pants and pulled them on quickly. He had forgotten about that.
He’d gotten a tattoo at a young age, though the shitty strip mall tattoo parlor hadn’t even bothered to ask for his fake ID. In a pique of teenage angst, he had asked for a barcode to be inked between his shoulder blades. He thought he had been making a statement about materialism, rebelling against ‘the system’ or something. Turns out he’d just needed to get laid and mellow out.
Everyone over the age of twenty gave him shit for it, and he had planned to have that sucker lasered off as soon as he got the chance. He dearly wished he had accomplished that before he’d carried his shame into this new world.
He bet if you scanned it into a UPC system it’d ring up a fedora. Bill shuddered.
“Ah, nothing, a stupid mistake I made when I was younger. Wish I’d never gotten the damn thing,” he said, still not looking at her as he waited for his face to cool, sitting down to pull on his socks.
“Well, I like it. It’s pretty,” Rekka said, examining the red and black geometrically complex symbols.
The symbols were grouped artistically on his upper back forming a dense intricate pattern. The meaning was lost on Rekka but she found it very pleasing to look upon. The pattern seemed to shift whenever Bill moved causing her to blink and shake her head. Shrugging, believing it must be some strange human custom from his silly world she padded off to dress as well.
No trace of the faded and crooked tattoo remained, which would have pleased Bill to no end had he known it.
“Uh, thanks… C’mon, let’s head back,” Bill replied as he stood, questioning her taste, but intensely relieved she hadn’t mocked him.
Bill struggled into the chainmail shirt he’d looted off of the dearly departed Flavius. The man would not need it where he was, buried in a shallow grave he shared spooning with Matius a short distance from the cave.
Tugging the chain into place Bill found it a reasonable fit, hanging loosely, not binding his movements as he twisted about testing. It fell to his upper thigh, the loose half sleeves hanging just beyond his own shirt’s sleeves. He probably looked quite foolish based on Rekka’s amused expression but he didn’t mind.
A bolt through his arm had awakened an urge for self-preservation he had really been lacking. He planned to take any advantage he could find no matter how ridiculous he looked. That in mind he strapped the plate bracers to his forearms, fumbling with the leather straps a bit until he got them settled. He rolled his wrists and bent his arms around, making sure they didn’t restrict his movement or pinch his wound.
He considered pulling on the gauntlets as well, but he’d found they made it difficult to use his hands for anything more complex than punching and grabbing. He’d bring them anyway. Punching and grabbing would probably come up a lot if his luck held true.
He stuffed the gauntlets and everything else they’d be taking with them into one of the saddlebags, not that they had many possessions. He had rigged together a carrying strap for it out of the confused jumble of horse gear he’d stripped from Flavius’s mount, turning it into a serviceable satchel. He’d tied a couple tightly rolled furs to use as bedding to hang securely below it. All pretty clever he admitted to himself, pleased with his own ingenuity.
He briefly wondered how that horse was getting on. Hopefully not in some mamono’s belly. It had been very forgiving of the murder of its master and had endured Bill’s inept struggles removing the saddle and tack with aplomb. He wished the nameless horse Godspeed on its journey of self-discovery.
Finally, he strapped Flavius’s scabbarded broadsword to his back on the sling that seemed to be made for that sort of thing. He’d swung it a bit experimentally earlier, feeling extremely foolish. Easy enough to handle, its weight nothing to him now but he was sure anyone with a modicum of skill would be laughing at his antics. He clearly couldn’t use it worth a damn but only Rekka knew that. It’d just stick over his shoulder earning them friends.
Settling the satchel into place on his hip, he turned to Rekka and spread his arms.
“Well, what do you think?” he asked, waiting for the laughter.
“Hmm… Well, you’re real shiny now,” Rekka said uncertainly, then glanced down at his satchel.
“Nice purse!” she complimented, no trace of ridicule in her tone.
“Thanks, it wasn’t on sale, but I just had to have it,” Bill replied, admiring his newly christened purse.
Bill looked around the cave, making sure they weren’t forgetting anything useful. Satisfied, he held his hand out to Rekka. Smiling up at him, she took it and they walked out into the sunlight together. Bill gave her a moment to look back at her little cave.
He watched as Rekka made her silent goodbyes to her cozy little home. He knew she was upset to be leaving, but likely she assumed they’d be returning sooner rather than later. Bill had decided he wanted much better for her, though.
He’d build her a real house if he had to, but he really hoped to find a community they could join. Rekka deserved better than a lonely hole in the ground in some forgotten wild. If nothing else, he had no real regard for the laws and property rights of this world. Maybe he could find some quaint village to sack and start up their own mamono friendly tribe. This was an adventure, after all.
Those cheerfully bloodthirsty thoughts in his mind, and Rekka done with her farewells, they began their journey.
“Be careful!” Bill called out to Rekka, who gleefully ignored him, crashing into the undergrowth to chase something small, fluffy, and terrified.
While they had started out walking close together just enjoying the fine weather, Rekka soon felt bored and began ranging about to explore.
Bill had been a little amused to find that he really had steered the soldiers in the right direction and they traveled steadily north for a few hours.
Rekka had almost immediately shed any reservations about leaving and had become excited to see a bit more of the world. Barking at small creatures, scaring up flights of birds, she was greatly enjoying their walk.
Bill, on the other hand, was starting to feel a spark of dread at his current circumstances. When he’d first stepped through the portal he’d have been of his usual mind about setting forth on a quest to save the world. That is to say, he’d have been mildly sardonic and prepared to tolerate whatever magical hi-jinx he encountered. Now, though, he had Rekka to worry about. He prayed he could see her safely through whatever trials came their way.
His lowered mood could also be attributed to the new assortment of twigs Rekka was busily accumulating in her freshly combed hair.
Since Rekka was being so thoughtful as to flit about him randomly choosing to investigate anything that caught her interest, Bill decided to experiment with his shiny new Huntstone. He’d already learned that it would light up when he pressed his fingers into two indentations, but with a mamono sitting in his lap it just flashed a steady white light no matter where he pointed.
Now he was able to quite easily track Rekka’s movements around him, although that wasn’t much of a trick as all one had to do was follow the excited barking and giggling.
Next, he tried twisting the dial a bit and found it no longer tracked Rekka. It seemed to light up randomly as he pointed, the light dim or brighter as he moved it about. Seems the dial was a kind of range setting, he could choose to dial it in and out, and it appeared to ignore anything closer the farther it spun. He would have to find a local to tell him the measurements, for all he knew he was tracking mamono in the next state or just a few hundred feet.
Spinning the dial to its end it clicked slightly into place. Now the crystal stayed on although it was fairly dim. He heard Rekka fast approaching, noticing the light grew brighter the closer she came. She burst forth from the undergrowth fast on the trail of a thoroughly upset squirrel, chittering its displeasure. As she flew by him the crystal peaked in brightness, slowly dimming again as she crashed after the squirrel in hot pursuit. A proximity sensor, then. Handy if you weren’t traveling with a mamono already, he supposed.
He felt he ought to be overwhelmed with such an obvious example of real magic held in his hands but, truthfully, his cell phone was a lot more impressive. Hell, a stud finder would probably be anointed a holy artifact by these yokels. He wondered if all their magic was so lackluster.
Now, the mamono, they interested him. He speculated on what the others of Rekka’s kind looked like. Was the whole nearly-human sex bomb thing particular to hellhounds, or could Rekka be some kind of genetic oddity?
Now would be a good time to find out for sure. Twisting the dial back to its starting position he waved it about until he found a brighter light that didn’t seem to be moving around.
Bill strolled off into the trees to find Rekka, following the excited snarling yips. He found her, paws on a trunk, growling up the tree in a lively manner. The squirrel had escaped and now clung to a branch chittering angrily down at her. Occasionally it would toss down bits of bark and twigs at Rekka, who shook her head and furiously barked at it in return. Bill called to get her attention and she reluctantly left the squirrel behind but not before grabbing a pawful of rocks and twigs to sling back at it. The squirrel screeched its outrage and retreated further into the branches.
“Hah! See how you like it, tree rat!” shouted Rekka, pride restored. She strutted over to Bill to see what he wanted.
“Can’t you leave those poor things alone? They’re probably covered in fleas,” Bill said, plucking twigs and leaves from her hair fussily before scratching at her fluffy wolf ears.
“I can’t help it. It’s like they wanna be chased, all small an’ tasty lookin’,” Rekka said, grinning up at him.
“Well, try to restrain yourself for a minute,” Bill said, “I’d like to meet one of your neighbors.”
“Ooh, sounds like fun! I can’t wait to show you off,” Rekka said, looking him up and down with pride.
“Glad to be your trophy husband,” he said before asking, “…but just to be sure, is this going to be safe? She’s not going to try and jump me right off will she? You were pretty… forward when we met.”
Bill chuckled nervously, remembering the event. Rekka’s idea of a friendly greeting was more predatory sexual assault. While he had learned to enjoy her enthusiasm in every way the thought of some less familiar woman throwing herself into the equation filled him with unease.
“Nuh-uh, if she tries anythin’ I’ll rip her face off,” she replied easily, “you’re all mine, husband!”
“It’s good to feel wanted,” Bill drawled, holding onto her paw hand and drawing her happily along as he followed the guiding light of the Huntstone.
“Don’t worry, mamono don’t usually steal from each other. ‘Sides, you’re covered in my scent now, anyone’ll know we’re married,” Rekka explained, eager to meet new people.
Bill casually lifted his arm to sniff at himself, not sure if he was relieved or not to know she’d marked him as hers. He couldn’t smell anything besides his own sweat and a bit of soap. Ultimately, he decided there were worse fragrances than that of Rekka, which he rather enjoyed himself.
They traveled steadily for a short while as they followed the Huntstone to their destination, coming upon a dense grouping of large trees topping a small hill. Rekka lifted her head and sniffed at the air, breaking into a wide grin.
“Oh, I met her once! Chased a squirrel up her tree, an she was SO nice. Wrapped it up for me an everythin’! She’s real pretty, I like her stripes,” she gushed, now eagerly pulling Bill forward.
As they made their way between the trees Bill looked around, his misgivings rising. It was darker under the tightly packed branches, casting a gloom over the area. He began to notice silvery threads running every which way and pulled Rekka up short. She looked back at him, curious, yet seemed at ease.
Bill coughed nervously, calling out, “Hello? Anyone there? We’re friendly.”
Leaves rustled as something pushed through the dense canopy above them, causing Bill to pull Rekka back a few feet and prepare for the worst.
“Yes, what is it, human? I’ve no time for you…” called a voice from the canopy, before a woman’s head and shoulders popped into view, hanging upside down. She was very beautiful and appeared to be remarkably human. Her silvery hair trailed below her hanging head, and she glared around with two eyes, their color a striking gold. Her skin was pale and she had long pointed ears. Bill was suspecting he might be meeting his first elf before he noticed the six other eyes, each set smaller than the other, climbing up her forehead.
The woman’s irritated expression melted away as she saw that Bill wasn’t alone, seeing Rekka hanging onto his hand and grinning up at her.
“Oh! Forgive my rudeness. Hello there. How may I help you, darlings?” she asked sweetly, drifting down in some unseen manner, revealing more of her body. Bill looked her over with curiosity.
She was a pretty little thing, slim and well proportioned. While she covered more skin than Rekka she managed to look far more intentionally suggestive. It was if someone had run out of leather and chains, deciding silk would have to do.
Bill was about to respond to the bondage not-elf when her legs appeared, causing him to choke back his greeting.
There were eight, six of the legs long and slender with their tips pointed, sharp as spears. Her two forelegs were more human shaped, pulled in close with wide womanly thighs and far slimmer calves ending in mimicked dainty feet. Those “feet” were some kind of hooked pedipalps which swung freely in both directions. Bill now saw what Rekka had meant by stripes, as the legs had a pattern of black and yellow running down their lengths. This was mirrored in her proportionately huge protruding abdomen which extended out behind her.
The spider woman lithely twisted her body, righting herself in mid-air before gracefully stepping down to the ground trailing a line of silk. It was all rather elegant in a creepy horror show kind of way. She took a few fluid steps forward to look them over.
If Bill did not know better he’d swear he was looking at a woman sitting on some spider themed throne, her legs crossed demurely before her as she swung her feet idly. The stripes on her legs looking like knee socks, blending seamlessly into soft attractive looking thighs. Her upper body, arms, hips, thighs and, he assumed, ass were all fairly humanlike aside from her eyes and she seemed to recline where the head of an arachnid would normally grow. Pretty much the spider version of a centaur, Bill supposed. Enormously dreadful but if you ignored the spidery bits she was nice enough to look at.
“Hey! Remember me? I chased a squirrel into your tree once, you caught it for me!” Rekka said, completely at ease and pleased as could be to meet her again.
“Oh, of course, the sweet little hellhound, how are you my dear? I simply love what you’ve done with your hair. It looks ever so much nicer like this,” she said admiringly, as Rekka twirled dutifully for her.
“Do’ya really think so? Thanks! My husband did it for me,” Rekka gushed, latching onto Bill’s arm and positively glowing with happiness.
“Your husband? My, how wonderful, I’m so happy for you both!” she congratulated them, smiling widely and showing off two wicked fangs. Rekka made pleased hellhound noises, practically floating from the praise.
Bill cleared his throat a bit, deciding he couldn’t treat anyone who made Rekka so happy with anything but respect and said, “Thank you, ma’am, I’m pleased to meet you. My name’s Bill, and this is Rekka.”
“Oh, and so polite. Hold onto him, sweetie. I can lend you some rope if you find you have need of it. Or if you simply enjoy that kind of thing, I know I do!” she said with humor, holding one silk-gloved hand over her smile.
“Where are my manners, you’ve introduced yourselves and here I am chatting away without responding in kind. Please, call me Annika, the pleasure is all mine,” Annika said, reaching out to receive a careful handshake from Bill then a much more enthusiastic one from Rekka’s paws.
Suddenly Annika leaned in closely, a conspiratorial smile on her lips. Bill thought he deserved a medal for not flinching back and screaming.
“I’ll have you know I’ve recently met a man myself. I don’t mean to overshadow your own joy, but I’m so happy I could burst. You simply must meet him,” she whispered, eight eyes shining with happiness. Rekka’s tail blurred into motion as she heard the happy news.
“Dearest? Come quickly, we have visitors!” Annika called into the canopy, her two back legs moving oddly.
Bill stared as a cigar-shaped cocoon floated down on a thick rope of silk, twisting slowly. Two eyes came into view, the rest of the face encased in silk, as the cocoon slowly stopped to face them. Bill burst out laughing as he recognized the bruises.
“Tullius?!” Bill managed to choke out, still laughing.
Tullius’s bruised eyes narrowed with hate-filled recognition while Annika looked between them, a thrilled smile spreading on her lips.
“Oh, have you met before? What a terribly small world, how nice. Your friend came to wish us well on our honeymoon, darling!” Annika said with delight, echoed by Rekka’s yips of shared excitement.
Bill managed to choke down his laughter, grinning right back at Tullius’s glare while addressing Annika.
“Aw, sure, me’n Tullius go way back. He prefers to be called Tully, you know. Tully always was saying how he’d like to meet a strong woman that would smother him with love and keep him straight. Poor guy had a lot of stress on his shoulders,” Bill said amiably, surreptitiously giving Tullius the finger.
Bill’s grin widened as Tullius began to struggle in his snug little cocoon, glaring death at him while trying to shout past his gag.
“Oh, dear, not in front of company. You know what it does to me when you wriggle like that,” Annika moaned, blushing.
She’d pulled a coiled silken whip from somewhere, biting down on it slightly while gazing at Tullius’s writhing outraged form with her lust filled eyes. All eight of them.
“Don’t let us keep you, we understand completely. You shouldn’t go easy on him, either. We need a firm hand sometimes, just ask my Rekka,” Bill said, sensing that was their cue to leave.
Backing away, but before they left he took a moment to pull his phone from his purse, snapping a quick picture of the spider woman. As long as the thing worked he might as well play tourist and grab a few mementos.
“Bye, Annika! Congratulations!” Rekka called back, waving happily as Bill hurried them off.
Annika only responded by waving distractedly with two of her legs. Her attention was focused on her new husband as she lovingly gathered his cocoon into her embrace. Tullius’s whimpers carried back to them faintly, followed by the crack of a whip.
“Oh, I’m so happy for her I could die!” Rekka squealed, her face lit with happiness as she joyfully swung both their held hands as they walked together.
“Yeah, they make a nice couple,” Bill replied, failing to feel too badly for Tullius despite the darker implications of being forced into marriage with a spider demon. It was just too funny to him.
“What’re they called, anyway, the spider mamono?” he asked, curious.
“Oh, she’s an arachne. There’s lots of different kinds, they’re so pretty an they all got those legs’n most make those neat webs,” Rekka replied, “they’re sposed’ta make really nice clothes, too.”
“Hmm. Well, I have to say I’m real happy you were the one to find me out here. Annika was nice but I’m pretty sure I would have just willed myself to death if I saw her coming for me in the dark,” Bill said, shuddering and dusting himself off with his free hand.
“Don’t be mean, she’s so sweet! But I’m glad I found you first, too. You’re the best thing ta ever happen to me, husband,” Rekka said, drawing his arm around her and snuggling into his side.
Bill walked along with a dopey grin, forgetting he was such a hopeless dork for a bit when Rekka spoke to him like that. They continued to walk, the day carrying steadily on into the afternoon. His thoughts drifted to the other soldiers that had been with Tullius, wondering how they were getting on.
Felix awoke easily, luxuriating in the lack of pain for a few peaceful moments before recalling the previous night’s events. He sat up, surprised to find he was alone, still in the same flowery meadow. It seemed he’d slept through the night and most of the day. He wondered if his beautiful equine savior had been just a dream, but his newly mended trousers and the lack of any gaping bloody holes in his leg seemed to show it hadn’t been.
Felix felt a moment of distress that she had left him, but it was probably for the best. He had to return to Fort Carcere, to report the disaster and organize a rescue for his comrades. Though, he would have liked to thank her and maybe learn her name.
Knowing he had wasted enough time he tried to push himself to his feet. Promptly he fell onto his face. Felix found he was weak as a kitten, his leg unresponsive and the muscles entirely relaxed. He supposed magical healing had to have some drawbacks and tried to massage some vigor back into his legs. He heard footsteps, or more accurately hoof beats, and looked up.
“Oh, you are awake! Thank goodness. Please do not try to stand, you will still be very weak and your leg will not hold your weight, sir,” she said, trotting towards him, her soft voice sending shivers up his spine.
Felix felt a rush of confusing emotions. He was thrilled to see her again but fearful of the consequences. He did want to return and save his squad mates. He also desperately wanted to see her smile once more.
“Uh, aye, my lady. I just now realized this, I’m afraid. Th-thank you, for your aid, my lady,” Felix stammered, staring up into her beautiful face as she stood over him.
“Please, call me Helena, sir. It was my pleasure, I assure you. I am so happy to see you are well,” she said, gracing him with her smile.
Felix’s heart fluttered in his chest. He’d taken part in battle with many terrible monsters, seen them rip through men with savagery and rage. He knew they needed to be opposed for the good of all mankind. He’d been taught since a child that they were evil, that their unreasoning lust would doom the world. He just could not understand how this… Helena, an achingly beautiful and gentle creature could be counted amongst their kind.
He recalled the forbidden stories Menius and Matius had swapped, speaking of less ferocious, more sensible monsters. He’d discounted them as imprudent jokes, made in bad taste in an attempt to make a fool of a younger soldier. Now, though, he wished he’d paid them more heed as perhaps he could have learned something.
“Please, my lady Helena, my name is Clu-… Felix. Call me Felix,” he finally responded, his mind in turmoil but sure that he wanted to continue speaking with her.
Helena laughed, lilting and musical. “Just Helena please, Felix. Now, you must eat to regain your lost strength. I am sorry I do not have any meat for you. I hope what I have found will please you, nonetheless,” she said, kneeling down before him, holding something in her skirts.
She offered up to him a medley of berries, nuts, and mushrooms. It was a fair amount and must have taken her most of the day to forage for him. Felix was most grateful as he had not even thought of his hunger until this moment, his appetite raging forth. Shyly, she cupped her hands into her offering and waited for him to bring his own up before placing the food into his palms. The brief contact between their fingers caused them both to blush and look away.
Felix ate, finding the simple forest fare to be the finest meal he’d ever had due to the company he kept. While he fed his mouth his eyes drank her beauty and he felt freer than at any time in his life. He noticed that she wasn’t eating and felt shame at his gluttony.
“Are you not eating, my… Er, Helena?” he asked, motioning for her to take the rest.
“Oh, no, this is for you. My people can sustain ourselves on grasses and other plant life. I am fine, I assure you. Eat up. You must regain your strength, Felix,” she replied, gently pushing more into his hands.
Reassured, Felix devoured his meal with enthusiasm, enjoying himself to no end. Whenever she said his name he felt a thrill, wishing the day would never end. They chatted quietly, Felix remembering nothing of their words but enjoying the conversation all the same. When he finished his meal he noticed the sunlight had almost disappeared, the day nearly over. She would likely depart soon, leaving him alone again. The thought depressed him significantly.
“You should rest again. You may be strong enough to travel in the morning, Felix. Do not worry, I will watch over you, none shall disturb you here,” she said, brushing at her skirts and gracing him with her gentle, beautiful smile.
“If… if you’re sure, Helena, I would not want to trouble you further,” Felix said, cursing his traitorous tongue, hoping she would remain.
Felix wished he possessed the glib wit of Matius or could put her at ease with Menius’s friendly charm. He’d never spent any time with women, much less a beautiful monster. He had no idea what to say in this situation.
“Nonsense, you are no trouble. I have had a wonderful time and it has been my pleasure to meet you, Felix,” she said, suddenly nervous and picking at her skirts as she looked down, blushing prettily.
“Well, if you’re certain, I would love to keep your company for a time,” Felix responded quickly, his heart soaring.
They remained close, yet apart, for the rest of the evening, talking quietly until Felix’s eyes could stay open no longer. Helena smiled gently down at him, watching over him as he slept.
Felix’s last conscious thoughts, oddly enough, were for the strange madman Bill and his hellhound girlfriend. Perhaps he had not been the complete fool Felix had presumed.
Bill turned the roasting rabbit on the wooden spit he’d constructed over their small fire. The unfortunate rabbit had been caught on one of Rekka’s bounding explorations. It had zigged when surely it should have zagged.
Bill held Rekka close, she had nearly stepped into the fire a moment ago and he didn’t believe she was completely fireproof. Together they sat by the fire as night darkened fully into evening, he enjoying her closeness, Rekka mostly wishing he’d decide the meal was ready.
They’d made excellent time, today. Rekka’s boundless energy and his own unnatural stamina had eaten away at the miles. They had only stopped because he didn’t feel like stumbling around in the dark, no matter how Rekka protested she could see just fine. Besides, he didn’t feel in any particular rush. The end of the world could wait a few more days.
Judging the rabbit to be done he once again fed Rekka first, waiting until she was satisfied before tearing into his own meal. He’d never had rabbit before but found it to be fairly pleasant, not gamey as he expected. Next time he’d have to let her catch two, his own pitiful portion not really satisfying him but he couldn’t bear to see Rekka unfulfilled.
He knocked the spit into the fire, not really sure what else to do with the thing. He may have lived in the sticks but he had about as much experience with camping as any modern man raised on video games and easy living. Laying with his back on his purse, Rekka resting on his lap and stomach, he felt at peace with the world.
“Hey, let’s do it. Seein’ Annika all lovey-dovey really got me heated up, husband!” Rekka suddenly said, sitting up.
“What’d I tell you about the owls, woman?” Bill retorted, although not entirely adverse to the idea.
“What owls? I don’t see any owl-,” she began, before something suspiciously sounding like a hoot started up from the treetops.
Rekka snarled viciously up at the trees, silencing all the little forest noises he hadn’t noticed until their absence.
“See, no owls,” Rekka continued happily, undoing his belt.
“Well, if you’re sure,” Bill replied, lifting himself to help her.
The owls received a show that night, but they wisely kept their beaks shut.
Bill and Rekka continued traveling without further incident for three days. They enjoyed their journey, the weather remaining clear with the nights cool and the days sunny. No more exotic mamono were directly encountered, though they did spot a few shadowy forms darting away from their path of travel as the trees began to thin slightly.
One afternoon Bill noticed a cute girl sporting rabbit ears peering at him shyly from bushes. He was about to call out to her in greeting before she abruptly squealed and hopped off at speed. Rekka had appeared from behind him, sniffing the air with the gleam in her eyes Bill knew meant a chase was in the offing. He quickly grabbed her before she could terrorize the skittish little thing.
“Don’t bully the herbivores, sweetie,” Bill said, feeling her muscles tensing as Rekka almost vibrated with the need to pursue.
“They like it, I know it. They wouldn’t run so much if they didn’t,” Rekka responded, staring intently at the retreating fluffball tail.
Rekka’s own tail was twitching with her need to engage, instincts forged since time immemorial ordering her to chase anything that ran. Bill patted her soothingly until her growling and whines calmed. They resumed walking, although Rekka’s head swiveled to follow the direction the prey had escaped.
“What was her species called?” Bill asked, trying to distract the fixated predator.
“Wererabbit. Fluffy. Runs good,” Rekka replied vaguely, nearly walking backwards now, her ears pivoting after the bunny girl.
“I’m beginning to see why we haven’t met many other mamono in all this time,” Bill said, turning her forward so she didn’t trip over anything.
“Yeah… we’ve passed a bunch. They’re keep avoidin’ us for some reason, probably cause you make so much noise,” Rekka replied, oblivious.
“Nothing to do with a ferocious hellhound rampaging through the forest chasing anything that moves, huh?” Bill asked rhetorically, which Rekka just shrugged at anyway.
“Just to be clear, you don’t… eat them, do you?” Bill questioned, not looking forward to the ‘Sapient Animal People Are Friends, Not Food’ seminar forming in his mind.
“Nuh-uh,” Rekka replied, “They just like it when I chase them… Don’t like bein’ caught though. They’re so soft, I jus’ wanna squeeze ‘em a little, y’know?”
Rekka launched into a detailed explanation of chasing down panicked wererabbits and the like, delighted they had wanted to play with her. It never failed to confuse her when they went limp, sobbing in terror partway through her celebratory wrestling match slash cuddle session. She described this criminal assault as ‘struggle snuggles’. Rekka was highly upset they never came around to play again.
“Right. Okay, Lennie, leave the poor bunnies alone. Try to find someone a little more durable to chase,” Bill requested.
Like a rhinoceros, he thought, laughing softly.
They spent the next short while as Bill explained “Of Mice and Men” to a confused Rekka, which caused her to punch him in the arm once she’d learned who she was being compared to. Rubbing his shoulder and laughing, it had stung pretty good, Bill wondered how strong Rekka really was.
Tullius, a beefy soldier, had landed a solid sucker punch on his not so muscled stomach and he’d barely felt it. Bill could feel the bruise forming on his shoulder from Rekka’s only slightly serious jab, through chainmail no less. There were levels of strength at play here he was having trouble comprehending.
He was starting to realize if he hadn’t been juiced up with some as yet unknown magical bullshit, he’d still be lying on the floor of Rekka’s cave. Probably asking for the license of the truck that’d hit him, and if it would like to get coffee sometime. Not exactly a terrible fate in his mind, but certainly he enjoyed being able to fend off Rekka’s advances long enough to get to know her a little better. They both seemed to be better off for it, despite Rekka’s irritation that she needed consent to rock his world.
When he’d first arrived, Bill had assumed the portal was just some crazy happenstance. Now, though, he wasn’t so sure. Someone seemed to want him to be roaming free and not just another casualty of mamono affection. He couldn’t be completely sure though, maybe this was what happened to people from Earth in this universe. Still, he’d remember to feel smugly unsurprised when Gandalf jumped out from behind a tree and regaled him with a fucking prophecy needing fulfillment. In the meantime he’d work on heading off the mutual destruction of the dominant species of this world.
It was late afternoon on the third day when their destination finally came into view. The forest ended abruptly, a vast field of cleared stumps revealing a logging operation. There were several groups of workmen in view, around thirty men in all Bill guessed, not bothering to count. They were gathering together into exhausted lines of march, heading towards what he could only assume was Fort Carcere which was not far from the worksite.
Bill’s main focus was on the mounted guards. There were twelve of them and they seemed equally concerned with their charges as their surroundings, shepherding the workers on their way.
Slaves? Bill wondered. No, prisoners.
The whole operation reminded him of a chain-gang of roadside inmates. Though the prisoners weren’t shackled together they were all wearing matching drab tunics and leggings, slogging along in two lines avoiding contact with their guards.
The view of the fort only solidified his intuition. It wasn’t nearly as large and imposing as he’d expected. Just a collection of mostly log walls. The guard towers poking over the walls were something out of Hogan’s Heroes, simple covered wooden scaffolds, and the guards he could see manning them were splitting their attention between the outer wall and the inner compound.
The fort wasn’t yet complete. While most of the walls were simple logs there was a much higher one of stone, wide enough to man with soldiers, complete with a more appropriate turret on the northern end of the compound. Even then, it was as well protected from missile attacks from within as without. When the complex was complete he imagined the whole thing would look pretty similar to the prisons of his own world. All it lacked was razor wire, cameras, and spotlights.
The major difference was a small medieval looking keep up along the stone wall and likely part of it. That was probably where the guards and administrators lived, making it a secondary defensive position in case of a riot or breach and giving them access to the walls once they were complete.
Bill watched the work party and their guards finish approaching the fort while kneeling in their hiding place, a dense growth of bramble bushes at the edge of the cleared trees. The inmates gave up their tools, piling them into a small wagon pulled by two other inmates who had their own guard and waited outside the closed gates to meet them. One of the guards called through the gates which opened smoothly. Next, the whole group entered under the watchful eyes of the guards who followed them closely inside. The gates slammed shut behind the last horse with no time wasted.
“Damn, this isn’t going to be easy,” Bill muttered.
“What’cha mean? I thought you had a plan,” Rekka said, lying on her back looking bored, nearly hidden in the tall grass.
Bill grunted, reaching down to scratch at her ears pensively. He had originally envisioned some kind of frontier outpost, possibly a fortified trading town. His plan had been to see if he could just walk up and gain entry as he was human, after all. Then he’d just cause havoc, kick in some doors, and possibly strangle this artificer depending on how unreasonable he decided to be. Bill knew it wasn’t a very intricate plan but he was a simple man. There was simply no way he was waltzing into a high security prison, though.
“Yeah. Raiding ‘Stalag 17’ really complicates the situation,” Bill said, still glaring at the gates.
“Oh, you mean a prison. Well, what are we gonna do? We could just go home,” she said hopefully.
Bill was confused that she knew it was a prison from his statement, before recalling the ‘Hund’ conversation, snorting at the absurdity of the entire situation.
“Guess I’ll go in at night, poke around a bit. That keep looks promising,” Bill said, not feeling very confident.
“You mean we’ll go, husband, I’m not lettin’ you out of my sight,” Rekka said, rolling her head to glare at him.
Bill turned to face Rekka but before he could start the brewing argument he was interrupted by the shockingly silent arrival of a woman. She seemed to just materialize out of the trees. If Bill hadn’t been facing that direction he would never have noticed her.
She was a mamono, looking like some kind of big cat. Emphasis on the “big”. Rounded fuzzy ears poked out of her short chin length hairstyle, and, like Rekka, she had fur flowing down from her elbows and knees capped off by paw hands and feet. The main difference, aside from the feline theme, was the size difference. In every possible way, she was a giant.
Her paw hands were proportionately larger than Rekka’s, their claws had to be six inches long. Her fur, hair, and long slim twitching tail were orange and black striped. Her tanned body was a gym rats dream, she had a damned eight pack and her arms and legs rippled with corded muscle. Not to say she wasn’t soft and curvy in all the right places, her round leather haltered breasts were hard to miss. They’d be oversized on any less statuesque body.
Two green eyes, their pupils vertical slits, were locked onto Bill. The detached expression of calm was somehow intensely invasive. Bill froze in place, feeling like a mouse caught too far from its’ hole.
Inexplicably, she was holding a coil of rope in both of her paws, clenching and unclenching her claws unconsciously as she stared at him. Before Bill could squeak out a greeting, or more likely a warning, the wind shifted. Rekka’s head and shoulders popped out of the grass, revealing herself to the intruder.
Immediately the tiger lady lowered herself into a fighting stance, baring her fangs. She dropped the rope, spreading her arms and claws as her bristling tail flicked about behind her. The oddly detached expression in her eyes barely changed, but her body language was unmistakable.
Rekka didn’t hesitate. She seemed to teleport across the distance, throwing up a spray of dirt and grass into Bill’s face. She stopped just out of claw distance directly in front of the newcomer. Growling deep in her chest, standing at her full height she seemed laughably small in comparison.
Bill wasn’t laughing. He’d gone from shocked to furious at the sight of the giantess looming over his Rekka.
Rekka was standing there, paws on hips and remarkably confident as she glared up at the tigress, who wasn’t even standing at her full height. With Rekka for perspective, Bill could see that the newcomer was perhaps less than a foot taller than his own head. Not outrageously tall, but she made Rekka look like a child. Bill swiftly realized that Rekka had no concept of her own stature, like a chihuahua facing down a Rottweiler. She truly believed she was the biggest, baddest dog in the fight.
“Fuck, stop! Back off, damnit!” Bill shouted, scrambling to his feet and running over, waving his arms.
In response to his shouts the tigress seemed to deflate, lowering her arms and leaving her defensive crouch. As Bill slid alongside Rekka, putting an arm in front of her between the two of them, the tiger lady even began to act embarrassed. Her ears flattened and her tail coiled around her leg. Oddly, her blank expression remained in place.
“Sorry, I… Sorry. Forgive my intrusion,” the tigress said in a surprisingly soft dulcet tone.
“That’s right, he’s mine! Should’a smelled that right off, girl!” Rekka scolded, pushing Bill’s guarding arm behind her and curling her own arm around his middle possessively.
“Yes. I scented you, but I thought you were hunting him as well. Again, sorry. I should have made sure. It’s… I’m not at my best today. I’m so close,” the tigress said solemnly, looking over at Bill.
Abruptly she closed her eyes, scrunching up her nose and lips parting to expose her upper teeth as she breathed deeply, taking in his scent. Bill’s brow rose in surprise but Rekka only made a concerned noise, pulling from him. She gently picked up one of the tigress’s paws and began to pat at her wrist soothingly. Bill watched them both carefully, having absolutely no idea what was going on.
“Oh, poor thing. Got it bad, huh?” Rekka asked, her normally irreverent voice filled with an almost maternal concern.
The tigress’s eyes popped back open, her face falling back into its usual serene mask, looking down at Rekka a moment before nodding slightly. Bill decided to trust Rekka’s judgement, no longer worried a fight was imminent.
“Okay… well, uh… right. First things first. I’m Bill, and this is Rekka. What’s your name?” Bill asked in an attempt to collect his thoughts after such a whirlwind meeting.
“…Tabitha,” she answered quietly, not meeting his eyes.
“Tabitha. Nice to meet you. What, uh, brings you all the way out here?” Bill asked, beginning to guess.
Rekka looked at him like was an idiot for a moment.
“She’s in heat, stupid!” Rekka snapped, bluntly confirming his suspicions. “Aw, you thought you had one, huh? Don’t worry, there’s plenty more. We just saw a whole bunch,” she said happily.
Bill shrugged, at a loss for words.
Mamono sure are cavalier about kidnapping and forced affection, he mused.
If they didn’t obviously care for their ‘husbands’ he might start feeling a little bad for all this aiding and abetting.
His eyes wandered around until they settled on the rope at their feet. Suddenly he clapped his hands together, startling both the women as he grinned to himself.
“Right! I think we can help each other out here. You were too quick on the jump there, Tabitha. You never want to settle for the first one you find. We’ll help you pick out a good one, just you see. Follow us back to our camp, bring the rope,” he said eagerly as another terrible plan came to him in a flash.
Tabitha seemed unsure, shuffling her huge feet a bit, but followed Rekka’s insistent tugging. She snatched up the rope and allowed herself to be pulled along.
Luckily, they’d come prepared for large hungry guests. Earlier in the day, Bill’s artless stumbling through the woods had spooked a small group of deer, sending them running into Rekka’s reach. She’d downed a large buck. The noble beast now roasted slowly over their much bigger fire, far from the prying eyes of the fort.
Bill had been a bit intimidated at trying to cook most of a deer at once, but he felt up to the challenge after all the experience he’d been accruing with smaller game. He trimmed a portion of cooked meat away and offered it to Rekka first, who greedily accepted, before chopping off a larger portion for their guest.
While they ate, Rekka sat next to Tabitha to put her at ease. Bill felt a little odd to eat sitting on the other side of Rekka, instead of her in his lap. Somehow, he managed to contain his disappointment, taking the opportunity to get to know Tabitha a little better before he wowed them with his genius plan.
“So, Tabitha, what do your people call yourselves? Some kind of… werecats?” he asked.
The beautiful hulking tigress shook her head, daintily licking the grease off her claws. Bill sliced her off another portion, playing the attentive host.
“No. Werecats are small, weak. I am a jinko,” She said, accepting the portion, taking restrained bites as though she were dining in finer company.
Tabitha’s mannerisms were completely at odds with her fierce looks and large muscular body. She seemed to be controlling her emotions, projecting calm serenity and cool confidence. Bill suspected it was an act she affected or mask she held in place. Tabitha’s turbulent emotions slipped through now and then if one was careful to watch.
“Never heard of a jinko before. Must not be from ‘round here, where ya from?” Rekka asked, imperiously holding out her paws to Bill for more, despite the fact that she was still chewing through her last portion.
Tabitha nodded, watching Bill carve at the deer and place a choice selection gently into Rekka’s claws. Her tail began twitching unconsciously when Bill took a moment to groom Rekka, pulling out bits of grass caught in her hair. Rekka leaned into him, her eyes closed with contentment as she tore into her meal and allowed her husband to spoil her. Tabitha’s placid face somehow conveyed a deep longing.
“Yes, my father was a sailor. He met my mother far away, in her homeland. He convinced my mother to return with him to his home. I’ve met no others of my kind here,” she said softly, returning her eyes to her meal.
“I know how that feels, I ain’t seen another hellhound since I was a pup,” Rekka said, staring at the fire, eating slowly now.
They lapsed into an awkward silence for a bit, concentrating on their meal.
Dinner complete, Bill waited until the women finished cleaning themselves using their tongues. When they were done and disappointed him by not assisting each other, he cleared his throat to claim their attention. Picking up the coil of rope and turning it in his hands he smiled widely to project confidence.
“So, here’s what I’m thinking. Glad you brought this rope, it’s going to come in useful. Though… why DID you have a rope, Tabitha?” he asked, suddenly curious.
Tabitha’s ears betrayed her surprise at his sudden question, twitching a bit. She brought her paws together, tapping her claws together pensively as she stared at the ground.
“This… it’s my first time. If he didn’t like me, I… I’m not sure, it seemed like a good idea,” she said, shrugging and dropping her paws into her lap.
Bill managed to contain his laughter, aided by Rekka’s glare of reproach. The idea of this giantess tying up a struggling little man was just so… cute. Undeniably horrible, but cute. Once more he cleared his throat to compose himself before launching back into his plan.
“Sure, that’s completely understandable. Right, Rekka?” Bill said, nudging Rekka slightly. He gave Tabitha his most charming smile, to no effect.
“Yep! That was smart thinkin’, not every man is easy to catch as Bill!” Rekka said as she patted him on the back.
He decided to let that pass unchallenged. She wasn’t wrong, anyway.
“Sure. Now, don’t worry about that, we’re gonna use this rope for something else,” Bill said, unwinding the rope a bit.
“See, the new plan is you sneak us up to the wall, I could see you’re good at that,” Bill said with admiration. “Right, Rekka? Didn’t make a sound, did she?” he said, giving Rekka another nudge.
“Yeah! I didn’t even know you were there until I smelled ya!” Rekka exclaimed, catching Bill’s enthusiasm and her tail began to wag excitedly.
“Ok, and then once we’ve slipped up to the wall, see, you’re going to climb right on over. She looks like a climber, don’t she, Rekka?” Bill asked, talking quickly.
“Yeah! Look at them claws!” Rekka agreed, yipping with excitement.
Tabitha simply continued to listen, her calm expression not betraying her thoughts.
“Well, after that you toss over the rope, and I can pull me’n Rekka right on over, no problem. That’ll be easy, right Rekka?” Bill asked her as he mimed throwing the rope.
“My husband is a lot stronger than he looks, he can do it!” Rekka said, glowing with pride as she looked him over.
Tabitha’s ears twitched a bit at Rekka’s declaration but otherwise, she made no comment.
“After that, it’s simple. We sneak around, grab the first guy we see, extract some information out of him, and the rest is easy,” Bill said, his cheer forced as the plan started to get a little murky.
Rekka began to nod eagerly but then a thoughtful look spread across her face, her tail slowing. Bill dropped the rope, feeling a little awkward holding it now.
“Right, yeah, Rekka and I have to see a guy about something in there, but on the way, we can look over a few potential gentlemen and grab one that catches your eye. We’ll make sure he’s up to snuff, don’t you worry about that. Right, Rekka?” Bill asked, plastering a confident grin on his face.
He was losing Rekka by the looks of it. She’d crossed her arms as she stared at him critically and did not bother to respond. Maybe Tabitha was eagerly hanging on to his every word but, somehow, he doubted it. That damned poker face made it hard to tell what she was thinking.
“So, once we finish our business we just sneak back to the walls, hop on over, and disappear into the forest,” Bill said with perfect assurance. “Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy!” he punctuated his little speech by clapping his hands together.
Rekka was mimicking Tabitha’s blank expression fairly accurately at this point.
“Well, what do you think?” Bill asked, trying to look relaxed and confident.
Tabitha and Rekka looked at each other, communicating their thoughts through female telepathy before giving him their attention.
“That’s a stupid plan,” they declared in unison.
“Well, no. It’s a simple plan, sure,” he said, shrugging, “but that’s what makes it a good one. Trust me, if anything comes up we’ll just improvise.”
Of course, Bill knew it was a shit plan. He just didn’t care. It was going to come down to kicking in doors and brawling, he knew with almost prophetic certainty. So, he felt they should play to their strengths. Well, Rekka and their new friend’s strength. Once they were inside he could just wing it, as all he wanted was to get behind the walls and cause some chaos without getting pelted by arrows first.
“Can’t sneak you up. You make too much noise, and Rekka’s eyes will give us away,” Tabitha responded evenly.
“Sure, I’m loud to you mamono but I’m not trying to sneak by you, just some other humans. I can do something about the chainmail, and that sword is pretty much just decoration,” he said easily, before nodding at Rekka, “And I have just the thing for Rekka’s pretty eyes.” Rekka’s grin fell back into place with that.
He stared confidently back at Tabitha knowing she was the one he needed to convince. Finally, she nodded. Bill knew it was her own barely suppressed needs that made her decision, and not his stupid plan. Results were all that mattered, though.
“Hot damn, it’s on! Now, relax for a bit. We’ll wait for full dark, sneak close as we can and observe the guard. When they change watch we’ll wait for the new shift to settle down and make our move,” Bill said, lying back with his arms behind his head to show them he had it all in hand.
Rekka and Tabitha shared that look again, causing Bill to lose his cocky grin and glare at them with irritation.
“Well, least it sounds interestin’,” Rekka said, crawling over to use Bill as her pillow while they waited.
“This is boring!” Rekka whined softly.
Bill shushed her quietly, shifting her slightly on his back. Rekka clung to him as he crouched in the shadows of a grassy depression. Tabitha was just ahead of them prone in the grass. Even knowing she was there he had difficulty picking her out, despite her size. Bill guessed it was just after midnight. The guard had changed and now they were waiting for them to get bored and settle down for a nice quiet shift.
Sneaking up to their current position, now only a short sprint from the walls had been a grueling experience. Tabitha had been adamant that Bill follow her steps exactly and stop when she did. It had taken them hours to crawl and shuffle just a few hundred feet. Even with his new strength and stamina, Bill had found crouch-walking fully loaded to be exhausting. It didn’t help that he was carrying Rekka.
Bill had decided not to lose the chainmail or sword. Hell, there was without a doubt in his mind going to be some cock up inside requiring a fight. To cover the gleam of metal he’d cut a hole in one of their furs and made himself a poncho, covering and quieting the chainmail nicely. The sword really wasn’t much trouble, he nearly forgot he was wearing it at this point and had just blackened any exposed metal with a bit of charcoal from their fire.
Rekka’s eyes had been simple. He had never tossed his ripped boxers out, figuring he could find a use for them at some point. The dark blue cloth made an excellent blindfold, blocking out her hellfire from the watchful guards. Rekka hadn’t complained, she found it funny and enjoyed having his scent so available.
Getting Rekka to the walls required her to hold to Bill’s back as he skulked after Tabitha. She enjoyed herself immensely until they stopped moving, waiting for the guard to change. Her bored sighs came at regular intervals now, puffing into Bill’s ear. He ignored her, flexing his aching legs and watching for Tabitha to make her move. She’d decide when they made their final push, her eyesight in the dark was far superior to his own.
Tabitha flowed to her feet suddenly. Waving, she darted for the walls, moving absurdly fast for the lack of sound she was making. Bill reached back, grabbed onto Rekka’s thighs just below her butt, and chased after Tabitha as quickly and quietly as he could manage. Rekka made a softly pleased noise in his ear as he ran.
They must have been silent enough as no alarm was sounded from behind the walls. Tabitha looked at Bill who nodded his readiness. She adjusted the rope tied around her waist and looked up at the wall. Crouching slightly, she leapt completely to the top, flowing over like a greased eel.
Bill nearly cursed in awe, he’d expected her to slowly climb up the wall using those claws of hers. For a moment he wondered if he could manage the same feat, he was certainly strong enough to attempt it. Shaking his head he knew he’d most likely misjudge the jump, sending them flailing into a noisy pile of chainmail and angry hellhound.
There was a moment of tense silence as they waited for Tabitha’s next move or a cry of alarm. Thankfully a moment later the rope silently sailed over the wall to uncoil next to him.
“Here we go Rekka, hold tight,” Bill said, patting Rekka’s legs. Rekka made an agreeable noise and gripped him tighter. He tugged on the rope, found it solid and began to pull them up.
Bill grinned to himself at the ease of pulling them hand over hand up the rope. His upper body strength was ridiculous, and he felt only a slight twinge of pain from his mostly healed bolt wound.
Wish coach Summers could see me now, he thought. I’d show him lazy and slow, rip that bell off and make him eat it.
Reaching the top, trusting Rekka to hold tightly with her own absurd strength, Bill flipped his legs over and simply dropped to the ground, hoping he wasn’t about to break his ankles. Luckily, their landing was soft and relatively quiet as he bent his legs to easily absorb the shock. He grinned over at Tabitha, impressed that she had not had to tie the rope to anything. She’d just coiled it around her paw and held on.
Tabitha had judged their point of entry well. They were standing in shadows between spaced out torches which lit up most of the inner compound. Bill could see two groups of guards, walking the perimeter slowly in pairs. They still had some time before they would be spotted by the patrollers. He glanced up at the nearest tower but the guard seemed more interested in staring up at the stars than doing his job. Bill pointed at the nearby building, long and low, looking like some kind of barracks.
Tabitha nodded her agreement and they jogged quietly into its deeper shadow away from the view of the tower. They left the rope hanging, it was nearly invisible in the darkness and wouldn’t likely be spotted by the less than observant guards, Bill hoped.
Bill let Rekka off his back, placing her paw gently against the wall of the building. He couldn’t see any windows and figured the entry would be on the inner facing side. Quietly he conferred with Tabitha and Rekka.
“Can you two, uh… Smell anyone inside here or something?” he asked. Tabitha closed her eyes and sniffed delicately for a moment. She opened her eyes and nodded.
“Yes, many men smelling of sweat and tree sap,” she said confidently. Rekka nodded blindly in confirmation.
“Ok, that’s perfect. I’ve got an idea but you two will need to stay here a second. When I knock on this wall, come on in,” he whispered, patting Rekka soothingly when she tensed. “If you don’t hear from me in ten minutes, tear this place apart and save my sorry ass,” Bill hissed vehemently. Rekka relaxed, a vicious grin on her face. Tabitha stared at him for a moment before nodding sharply.
Bill gave Rekka’s paw a quick squeeze then turned and padded through the shadows along the building. Stopping at the end, he peeked out and waited for the patrolling guards to pass. Hoping the guards in the towers were looking elsewhere he threw caution to the wind and stepped into the firelight. Walking with unhurried confidence, hoping if anyone did spot him they would just assume he belonged there, Bill made it to the door. Finding it unlocked he quickly opened it and slid inside.
The interior was pitch black, though he had seen a quick flash of the room when he opened the door. He knew there was a series of bunks stretching off along both sides of the room. Blindly he shuffled over to the one closest to him, his hands searching blindly until he found the shoulder of its sleeping occupant. Immediately he clamped his hand down over the man’s mouth who began to struggle and panic.
“Shh! I’m not here to hurt you. In fact, we can help each other out here. Don’t call out when I take my hand away. Nod if you understand,” Bill whispered, hoping this guy was going to cooperate.
He really didn’t want things kicking off before he could find where the artificer was hiding. The man nodded stiffly, and slowly Bill removed his hand.
“Who the fuck are you?” the man hissed, thankfully quietly.
“That doesn’t matter. You like being a prisoner? How’d you like a chance at freedom?” Bill whispered back.
“What? How? Are you alone? Did you bring weapons?” the man said, hope filling his voice.
“There’s enough of us. We’d prefer to have you on our side when we go after the guards, and I think I can get you weapons,” Bill said.
“Hold, let me wake Cato. He’s the one you need to talk to,” the man whispered back.
“I’m already awake,” a deep voice called out softly, followed by the sound of footsteps making their way over to the two.
“I doubt anyone is asleep right now, stranger. Why would you risk yourself for us? We are condemned men, after all,” the broad shadow said, Bill beginning to make out details as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.
“I have business with a man in this fort, and they’re not likely to let me just walk up to the keep and say hello,” Bill responded, standing up in front of Cato and holding out his hand. Eventually, Cato took it, shaking firmly.
“No, I imagine not. I cannot speak for everyone but I’m sure most of us would be glad to escape this place. What do you have in mind?” Cato asked. More men were rolling from their beds and padding over to join the conference.
“Before I get into that, the man I seek is an artificer. You may have seen him as they tested the new weapons and I’m sure you know about those,” Bill said.
“Aye, they have him tucked away behind the smithy, alongside the keep. You freeing him, or killing him?” Cato asked, not appearing to care either way.
“He’s a prisoner then? Then it all depends on him. One way or another he’s going to stop making those weapons,” Bill replied.
Cato nodded, then looked around the room judging.
“Looks like everyone wants to leave. What is your plan?” Cato said once he’d finished.
“Hold on a moment, my friends are waiting behind this building. I’m going to call them in but, please, don’t freak out,” Bill said, grimacing. What happened next was determined by how they reacted to the news that their saviors were not quite human.
“They’re mamono, but don’t worry, they’re uh, with me,” Bill said.
He’d just have to keep Tabitha from claiming one of these men before he’d used them for his own personal gain.
There were a few hushed gasps and hurried arguments before Cato shushed them.
“You don’t know the purpose of this prison, do you?” Cato asked, bitterness in his voice. “More’n half of us are here because we… ‘consorted with evil’, as it were.”
“I see, I think,” Bill said. “Ok, well, I’m going to call them in.”
Bill walked over to the rear wall and knocked. He called, “Hey, Tabitha, Rekka. C’mon around, try not to get spotted.”
There was an answering knock and Bill trotted over to the door to wait.
The door opened a few minutes later as Tabitha bent, sliding inside and pulling Rekka in behind her. There were a few fearful murmurs at her size but no one started screaming. That was something, anyway.
Bill was about to introduce them when Tabitha started doing that… open-mouthed breathing thing again. He stepped up beside her and picked up her paw.
“Oh, no, Tabitha. These men are criminals, no one you’d want raising your children,” Bill said soothingly. “Uh, no offense, Cato.”
“None taken, I’m sure,” Cato responded, staring up at the jinko in awe.
Tabitha seemed uncertain but didn’t scoop anyone up and make a break for the walls so Bill figured the plan could proceed. He turned to Rekka and removed her blindfold, stuffing his boxers back in his pocket. As she blinked her eyes the fires blossomed, lighting the room up dimly. The prisoners began to swear and back away from her.
“No worries, fellas. She’s my wife,” Bill said, throwing an arm over her shoulder. The prisoners relaxed, now looking at Bill with the kind of respect one normally gave men who threw themselves on top of grenades.
“Alright, so here’s the plan,” Bill began only to hesitate when both Rekka and Tabitha sighed. “Quiet, you two.”
He glared at them a moment before turning to Cato.
“Cato, where do they keep your axes and such?” Bill asked.
“Not far, the shed next to the gates. They do lock that up. How do you plan on getting them to us?” Cato asked.
“Nah, we’re going to take you to the weapons,” Bill said, smiling. “There’s no way we’re going to do this quietly, so speed is going to be our tactic. The entire lot of you is going to follow Rekka to that shed and she’s going to open it up fast and loud.”
“What about the guard towers? They have bows and they pull up the ladders. We’ll be full of arrows before we can chop them down,” Cato said, though at least he wasn’t rolling his eyes like Rekka just had.
“Oh, you leave that to me and Tabitha here,” Bill said, waving at the jinko. “They won’t be getting the chance for much archery once we’ve pulled those towers out from under them.”
“That still leaves the stone turret,” Cato said, looking at Bill’s less than impressive physique skeptically, but made no other comment.
“Huh, yeah. We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it. Still, three towers down, weapons in your hands, and backed up by these two beauties? You’ll never get a better chance,” Bill stated, shrugging.
“You are not wrong. Well, count me in. I’d rather die here on my feet, than a few years from now in that miserable bed,” Cato said, looking over the rest of the prisoners.
There were a few grunts of approval, but most just nodded, looking eager to begin. Bill prayed they didn’t immediately fold once the guards started boiling out from the keep.
“Hope you’re all ready, because as soon as you hear those towers coming down you’d better be following Rekka to that shed, or I’ll be back to discuss it with you,” Bill said, glaring at the assembled men a moment.
“Rekka, once you’ve got the shed opened, keep the guards off them while they arm themselves. Tabitha and I will group back up with you once we’ve taken care of the towers, okay?” Bill asked, receiving a confident grin in return.
“No problem, husband! Just don’t go catchin’ any more arrows, or I’ll be real upset,” Rekka said as she hugged him, holding him for a moment.
“Don’t worry, I’ll try and dodge a little this time,” Bill replied, chuckling nervously before turning to the jinko. “Tabitha, you’re a hell of a lot faster than me, so you take out the tower furthest from here, yeah?”
“Yes, it will be easy. Are you sure you can manage one yourself?” Tabitha asked looking down at him, her tail twitching her disbelief.
“Just you watch me, race you to the last tower!” Bill said, whipping off his poncho and digging in his pouch for the gauntlets. He pulled them on quickly and strode to the door.
“Good luck everyone, have fun storming the castle!” Bill cried, not bothering to whisper as he charged out the door.
Running around the building he made for the closest tower, struggling to unsheathe the sword on his back. He couldn’t quite get it out and wished he’d practiced more. Grimacing, he gave up and just kicked the closest support strut as he came into range. With a loud crack, the thick timber broke apart and the entire structure groaned as it titled to the side. Above him, the guard screamed his surprise.
Bill could hear crashing and shouting from the other side of the compound as Tabitha did her thing. Dashing over to the next support he kicked it as well, taking two strikes to fully break. Now the entire structure sagged to the side but not falling. Bill was about to run to the other support and finish the job when he heard a strained voice above him.
“Please. Please, no,” the guard said clinging with his arms around a pole, his legs dangling above the drop. He still held his bow, somehow.
“Drop the bow,” Bill said. The man opened his hand, dropping the bow below him. Bill stomped on it, breaking it in half.
“Well, hang around, enjoy the show,” he called, running towards the last tower.
Tabitha got there first, slashing her claws through the supports as she passed them. The tower collapsed immediately, splintering apart as it crashed to the ground. No way was that guard going to be assisting the defense. They both turned to join the pitched battle taking place between the tool shed and the keep.
The prisoners were busily arming themselves, a few of the quicker ones were tenaciously attacking the better armed guards. Mostly they were getting in Rekka’s way as she darted around taking the guards out easily enough. A few prisoners were on the ground, some of them with arrows sprouting from their bodies.
Bill let Tabitha join the fray and hung back to look for a few rocks. Finding some good ones, he scanned about for the hidden archer. All the guards on the ground had spears and swords.
One of the prisoners called out in pain and Bill looked over in his direction, then up at the stone tower. He could just make out the silhouette of a man with a bow. Taking aim, Bill whipped his rock at it, not expecting much. He was pleasantly surprised to see the rock shatter against the merlon causing the archer to loose his arrow without aiming and duck down. He continued to lob a rock every time the man poked his head out, making sure the arrows stopped.
Eat your heart out, coach Summers! Bet you want me on the team now! Bill thought gleefully.
Tabitha and Rekka made very short work of the guards. The inmates quickly learned to stay out of their way and just distract the guards until the women could deal with them. The inmates really didn’t really make much of a difference but Bill was happy to let them catch a few arrows that otherwise would have been meant for Rekka.
Once the guards were taken care of he yelled, waving for everyone to follow him to the keep. Sticking close to its walls put them outside the view of the archer giving them a moment to speak.
“Rekka, Tabitha, you’re not hurt, are you?” Bill asked with concern, running his hands over Rekka searching for wounds.
“Nope! You didn’t catch any more arrows, did ya?” Rekka replied, leaning in close and enjoying the pat down. Tabitha merely shook her head in response to his question.
“No, but the night is young,” Bill quipped, finishing his inspection and patting Rekka’s ass affectionately.
Most of the inmates were wielding spears and short swords now. A few grimly held onto their axes, waiting their turn to requisition a new weapon. They hadn’t lost as many as he’d expected. He sighted Cato and waved him forward.
“Cato, glad you made it. I count thirteen guards down. Not counting that asshole up in the turret, how many more can we expect holed up inside?” Bill asked.
“Just one squad left in there, five men and the warden. There’d be more but they left more than a week ago to enter the forest. No idea what happened to them,” Cato said.
“Yeah, we met them. They’re not going to show up anytime soon,” Bill said. “Ok, it’s unlikely they’re going to sally forth with seven men. Where’s this artificer hiding?” he asked, looking around at the unfamiliar buildings.
“There, a small room next to the smithy,” Cato said, pointing to a wooden door past what looked more like stables to Bill.
“Alright, I have to go see a man about a gun. You guys hold the fort here, yell if you run into any trouble. Once I’m done we’ll figure out what we’re doing with the keep,” Bill said.
As he jogged towards the door he glared up at the turret. “I dare you to take a shot, asshole!” he yelled as he crossed the courtyard. The archer chose to remain hidden.
Bill tried the latch, finding it locked. Shrugging, he kicked in the door. It fell in with a satisfying clatter and he strode boldly into the small dimly lit room.
Bill shrieked in surprise when someone flung themselves at him, swinging a club into his side. His reflexive flail swatted the man back with a curse, sending a twinge of pain through his wound. The attacker fell back against the wall, giving Bill a clear look.
He was a skinny young man, maybe slightly older than himself. He stared at Bill defiantly as he clutched what appeared to be an unfinished musket barrel in his hands. He was probably a few inches taller than Rekka, his features vaguely Asian, and he’d not shaved in quite a while. A few old bruises could be seen on his face and arms. He was wearing the same rough tunic and leggings as the inmates outside, but his footwear was vastly different. Bill’s eyes narrowed as he took in the bright green rubber.
“Nice crocs, douche,” Bill said, guessing he’d just found another refugee from his own world.
“What? You! YOU did this to me!” the man screamed, hate filling his voice and looking like he was working himself up to attack.
“Calm your ass down, I didn’t do anything. I’m nearly as surprised to see you,” Bill responded, though he’d been suspecting it was another portal refugee to have named the musket.
“Oh. What, is this a rescue? Are you taking me home?” he asked, lowering the barrel and looking at him with hope in his eyes.
“Sorta. What’s your name, dude?” Bill asked.
“Larry, man. What the fuck is the deal with this place? I’ve been here for months! What is with these primitive fuckheads?” Larry asked, dropping the barrel and sliding down the wall with his face in his hands.
“Damn, sorry Larry. I’m Bill. Sounds like you’ve had a worse time of it than me,” Bill said, glancing up as Rekka and Tabitha poked their heads in curiously.
“Hah, yeah. Dragged out of my dorm shower, several shades of shit kicked out of me and then they haul me out to this fucking castle to make fucking muskets! There’s no way your story can compare to tha- HOLY FUCK! What the hell is wrong with her eyes?!” Larry shouted, pushing himself to his feet as Rekka came up beside Bill.
“Nothing is wrong with her, she’s got beautiful eyes. Say hello to Larry, Rekka. He’s from my world,” Bill said, enjoying the man’s surprise.
“Hi, Larry! What’re those?” she asked, pointing at his shoes with eager curiosity.
“Those are crocs, Rekka. My people wear them to warn others that they lack any sort of taste or refinement, so it’s ok to pity him,” Bill said, grinning.
“Fuck you, dude. I was just getting out of my dorm’s shower, all I had on was these fucking things and a towel,” Larry said distractedly, still staring at Rekka’s hellhound parts. “Dude, what is she?” he asked.
“Ask her yourself, bigot,” Bill said, losing patience.
“Oh, um, sorry miss. What, uh, are you?” Larry asked somewhat politely.
“I’m a hellhound! Tabitha, over there is a jinko. We’re mamono. It’s nice ta meet another person from my husband’s world!” Rekka said, not taking any offense.
Larry mouthed ‘husband’ while looking a question at Bill, who simply nodded, grinning.
Bill and Rekka were forced to shuffle to the side as Tabitha pushed her bulk forward. She was staring intently at Larry and began to do that odd scenting thing again.
“Oh. This is Tabitha, that’s uh, her way of saying hello,” Bill said, meeting Rekka’s eyes. She shrugged, unconcerned.
“Wow, hello yourself. You must do a lot of crunches,” Larry said admiringly as he looked her up and down. Mostly up.
Bill decided to see how this played out, figuring it killed two birds with one stone after all.
“Wait, is that like a flehmen response?” Larry said, suddenly very nervous.
“Fuck is that?” Bill asked.
“Animals kind of do that when they’re taking in… pheromones,” Larry said, edging away from the panting jinko.
“Hey, don’t knock it ’til you try it, man,” Bill said, grinning.
He let Tabitha corral the poor guy between his work desk and the wall before choosing to interrupt her courtship.
“Hold on a sec, Tabitha. I know you’re hurting, girl, but we still have a keep full of guards to deal with,” Bill said, gently taking her arm.
He was surprised to see Tabitha’s face twist with a passionate desire for a moment when stared at Larry. She quickly masked herself, face falling back into its serene lack of expression. Pulling herself back slightly she nodded at Bill.
“I can control myself. I will,” Tabitha promised.
“Good girl,” Bill said, patting her arm.
“Alright, Larry. Business before pleasure. Why the hell are you making guns for these assholes?” Bill demanded.
“Because some bearded fanatic in charge of these morons told me to. When I told him to get bent his goons beat the shit out of me,” Larry said, voice filled with indignant fury. “Enough of that and I was all too happy to build them some guns so they’d go off and shoot each other.”
“Hate to tell you, they’re not using them on each other. They’re shooting at Rekka and Tabitha’s people. One of your shitty muskets was aimed at Rekka when it exploded in Matius’s hands. Blew his fucking face off,” Bill said, his voice cold.
“Aw, poor Matius, he was alright,” Larry said, looking sad for a moment before his defiant expression resumed. “Well, you can thank me for that. I made the powder chamber too large on purpose. They could really pack in a lot if they weren’t careful, fucking savages.”
“Huh… well, thanks for that, then. Still, we gotta destroy all these ‘Boomsticks’ before they learn how to make them for themselves. Please tell me they’re all here,” Bill said, looking around.
“Hah, you caught that? Pretty good, huh? I didn’t really know what to call them, seemed appropriate at the time,” Larry said, scratching behind his neck self-consciously. “And no, only the unfinished ones are in here and they never let me near the powder. The completed ones are up in the keep somewhere with that dickhead warden, along with all the powder.”
“Shit, guess we are storming the castle then. You sure they didn’t ship any off?” Bill asked.
“Nah, this asshole knight wanted them field-tested before he’d take them to claim the glory. Now, that guy was a real prick,” Larry said with feeling.
“Yeah, met him. He’s real dead,” Bill replied absently, now staring back out towards the keep. “We need to get in there, trash those guns. First, let’s wreck all these parts. You got the blueprints here?” Bill asked.
“Yeah, but they’ve got copies up there somewhere, too,” Larry said, waving towards his cramped work desk.
Bill walked over and casually bent one of the barrels at a 90-degree angle.
“Holy shit, how’d you do that? This metal is trash but there’s just no way…” Larry said with awe.
“What, you didn’t get magical super strength when you came here? Man, you got gypped,” Bill said, twisting the remaining two barrels together with a grunt of effort.
“Magic? Fucking magic now? Christ! No, all I got was my ass kicked and turned into a slave,” Larry said, furious.
“That’s a damn shame. Guess I’m the chosen one. Well, let’s go destroy all your hard work then, sidekick. Tabitha, keep him close,” Bill said, jerking his thumb back over his shoulder at Larry.
Bill rolled up anything that seemed to have schematics on it. He would burn it all at the same time to be sure.
“What? Hey! This isn’t necessary, damnit!” Larry said as Tabitha placed her huge paw on his shoulder possessively.
“I will guard him carefully,” Tabitha said, bending slightly to sniff at Larry.
“Look, I’m not going anywhere, watch the claws,” Larry said, rolling his eyes to peer at her claws lying gently across his shoulder and chest.
Suddenly he looked at Bill, “Wait, there’s not just the muskets. I made a prototype first but they said it was too complex, fucking Neanderthals. I want that. I didn’t get any lousy magic super strength, I need to protect myself!”
“Fuck that, they’re too dangerous to have around. I don’t want these people getting any ideas,” Bill said.
“What are you, some kind of anti-gun communist?” Larry asked, sneering his disgust.
Bill flushed furiously. “Fuck you, man! I’ve got a shotgun back home that’d put your stupid exploding matchlocks to shame!” Bill shouted back at him.
Truthfully, he’d been having similar thoughts. If felt damned unpatriotic to be on a quest to take away people’s guns. His conservative father would die of shame if he ever found out about this escapade. Bill only felt slightly better knowing he was invading a sovereign nation, stealing its women and enriching himself in the process.
“Fine, I’ll think about it. If anyone asks, you’re a goddamn wizard, right?” Bill said, glaring at Larry.
He nodded back, mollified.
“It’s pretty sweet, you’re going to like it, way better than these terrible muskets,” Larry said, voice filled with pride.
Bill ignored him, sticking his head out the broken door to glare up at the turret. He saw a figure quickly duck behind cover.
“I swear to God I will climb that tower and throw you off if a single arrow comes my way, I shit you not!” Bill yelled, cautiously stepping into the open.
The archer wisely stayed down. Bill waved the others towards the keep, continuing to glare up at the tower. He joined them once they’d made it across without incident.
“So, how many finished muskets have they got in there, Larry?” Bill asked as they gathered near the heavy wooden doors of the keep, watching the arrow slits for movement.
“Four, I’ve only made five in total. Enough to demonstrate volley fire to whoever’s financing this operation,” Larry replied.
“Great, so we’ve likely got four loaded muskets waiting for us, not to mention your damn prototype. This is going to be ugly,” Bill thought furiously, not willing to risk Rekka to a frontal attack.
He looked back over the gathered inmates and said, “Luckily, we’ve got some very enthusiastic troops we can send in first.” He waved Cato over to join them.
“Don’t worry about the prototype, these primates can barely load it,” Larry said, snorting. Bill ignored him to focus on Cato’s grave but determined face.
“Cato, just the man I was looking for. Line your men up, we’ve got one last glorious charge and this will all be over but the screaming,” Bill said, smiling confidently.
“Why don’t your women just tear down the door and sort this out? They’re much better at this,” Cato said, not allowing himself to be fooled by Bill’s obvious treachery.
“Look, they will, we just need you to distract the guards while we sort the doors out. Once they’re open I need you all to rush them and we’ll be hot on your heels, you have my word,” Bill said, not exactly lying. He’d just be waiting for a few musket shots before coming to their rescue.
Cato sighed, waving the inmates forward. They jogged forward eagerly, ready for more vengeance.
“You’ve played us fair so far, we’ll do it,” Cato said.
Bless his honorable heart, Bill thought, quickly suppressing a pang of guilt.
Maybe the ones that ended up catching a bullet would be child predators or something. They probably didn’t throw you in this terrible place for tax evasion.
“Yeah, you can trust me. Just, uh, hang back and support your men from behind. They’ll feel better knowing you’ve got their backs,” Bill said, trying to minimize his bad karma.
Everyone gathered in front of the heavy wooden doors, Rekka and Tabitha to each side, Bill pressed up against the wall with Larry. The inmates stared at the door, eager with anticipation. Bill nodded at the women and both turned to kick the doors simultaneously, sending them crashing down into the room. The inmates surged forward.
The guards’ response was explosive, literally. The first six inmates were scythed down. Some of the bullets going completely through the first to strike the man behind. Bill peeked around Rekka, saw there were four guards, clouds of smoke making details impossible. The guards hastily threw down their empty muskets and pulled out swords, charging the now disorganized chaos that had been a valiant charge moments ago.
“That’s our cue, ladies,” Bill said, pushing forward.
He made only a couple steps before Tabitha and Rekka flew past him. The poor guards didn’t stand a chance. They weren’t dead but they were real unhappy. Their situation was likely to change as the remaining inmates gave the guards speculative looks while checking on their dead and injured comrades.
“They’re pretty gentle with them, considering those claws,” Larry said, coming up behind Bill.
“Yeah, I noticed that too. I think they just prefer to avoid killing. Rekka’s had the opportunity and most of her victims have limped away,” Bill said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
Striding forward he picked up one of the muskets and swung it into a stone wall with all his might. The stock shattered, and the barrel bent into a useless shape. He quickly did the same to the others. Larry looked on a little mournfully, finding it painful to see months of work dashed against the wall.
“Don’t touch the pieces, we’ll have a nice bonfire and bury what’s left,” Bill said to the inmates.
Now he wanted to find where the warden was holed up. He walked over to one of the less damaged guards and nudged him with a foot.
“Hey, tell me where your boss is and I’ll make sure they don’t cut your throat. Best deal you’ll see tonight,” Bill said amiably.
“Up those stairs, oak door, gold trim,” the man said immediately, edging away from the inmates.
“Thatta boy, you’ll see tomorrow yet. Don’t kill them, Cato. Well, this guy, anyway. I’m going to have words with the warden,” Bill said, nodding at the man, pleased to see he’d taken his advice and led from the rear.
Bill took the stairs with a spring in his step. Rekka followed eagerly with Tabitha coming up behind them. She’d taken Larry back under her wing, well, claw.
The upper portion of the keep was much more finely furnished than the spartan first floor. He supposed downstairs was where the guards lived. Up here there were fine tapestries, a few paintings, and even a nice vase or two, which he idly pushed off their stands as he passed.
Quickly he found the door the guard had told him about, polished oak lined with gold filigree.
“Watch this. You two don’t get to have all the fun,” Bill said, grinning at Rekka.
Leaning back he kicked his foot into the door beside the latch. His foot punched right through the wood, trapping it neatly. Bill yelped with fear as he felt something hit his boot, stopped by the steel toe insert.
“Cor, he’s got metal feet,” a man’s awed voice carried through the thick door.
“Fuck! They’ve got swords! Pull me back!” Bill yelled, hopping backward.
The door swung open, giving him no leverage to pull himself free. Rekka gave him an amused look before darting through the opening, once more pulling his ass from the fire.
“Smooth move, ex-lax,” Larry said, laughing as Bill tripped, tearing the door free from its hinges and landing on his back.
The door fell on top of him as he cursed. Peering around the door, he saw that Rekka had the final guard pushed up against the wall as she growled at him menacingly. Bill squirmed his way out from under the door.
“Where’s the warden?” Bill called, stepping into the room towards Rekka.
“Right here, villains!” a small well-groomed man shouted as he popped up from behind the desk.
The warden was small, the gun he held was not. It looked like some kind of steampunk’s wet dream, beautifully worked with silver filigree. Most of it was shined metal with a polished wooden stock and foregrip. There was a drum magazine hanging from it with a large silly looking crosshair attached to the end of the short barrel. Bill froze, staring down a barrel looking bigger than a train tunnel.
Bill waited for his life to end but the moment didn’t come. The little man began to look very nervous, glancing down at the gun and shaking it.
“Fire, damn you! Why won’t it work?” he groaned.
“Here, let me show you,” Larry said, casually walking into the room and patting Bill on the shoulder as he passed.
“Oh, thank you, artificer, that would be most helpful,” the warden said, passing the gun over to Larry when he reached for it.
Larry promptly bashed him across the face with the stock, turning the rifle to aim down at the surprised and terrified man while shouting.
“You didn’t turn off the safety, you stupid little fascist! You’re lucky I don’t shove this up your ass and pull the trigger! Do you remember all the beatings you ordered? I remember! I remember all of them! Half rations when I didn’t work fast enough?! Fuck you! I’m in charge now, asshole! Dance for me! DANCE!” Larry screamed at the cowering warden, flecks of spittle flying.
“Whoa, easy there, killer,” Bill said, just happy to be alive.
He reached around Larry and lifted the gun from his hands. After letting Larry get in a few kicks Bill pulled him away. The guy really needed to let off some steam.
Turning the rifle over in his hands Bill was deeply impressed by its intricacy. It was a much more advanced than a simple musket. The rifle looked a bit like a medieval ‘Tommy Gun’. Bill poked tentatively at a lever next to the magazine, which dropped free to clatter on the ground. Larry now turned his anger onto Bill.
“Hey, don’t touch, your crazy strength could damage it. It’s unique. I never thought I’d have to build a gun before, so I kind of improvised a lot of it,” Larry said, picking up the magazine and tucking it under his arm. He held out his hands for the rifle and Bill reluctantly handed it back to him.
Larry cleared the chamber, the action reminding Bill of a scaled-up luger. He was surprised to see three pieces fly out instead of the single cartridge he expected. Larry caught them with practiced ease.
“They can’t machine bullets properly, so I just fabricated some percussion caps and paper shells. All by hand. You load them into these casings and slip those into the magazine, almost like a revolver. Solid slugs for the most part. This thing is a cannon,” Larry said, fussing over his baby proudly. “They can’t manufacture springs worth a damn so it jams constantly, and never works semi-auto. There should be a cocking lever for a crossbow around here somewhere, normally I just use that, see the holes here? The rate of fire is pretty respectable with the lever if you’re not too concerned about accuracy.”
Bill just nodded. He’d never really been that interested in guns, seeing them more as useful tools and something to have in case of home invasion. The shotgun he owned was probably just as likely to be used for zombies as home defense, really.
His father would have been ecstatic though, and singing Larry’s praises for his ingenuity. That man had a huge collection just waiting for the government to come and take them. Probably be the happiest day of his life.
“Cool, don’t get trigger happy. Don’t need that thing exploding on us. You’re not going to use it until I see you test it. Watching from a fair distance,” Bill said, looking around the room. “Where’s the powder?”
“Over there, they don’t have much, just a small keg,” Larry said, pointing.
Bill picked the little barrel up, shaking it and finding it nearly full. He looked at the crate next to it, flipping it open with his boot. He turned back to Larry, his expression dark.
“Forgot to mention the grenades, asshole,” Bill snapped. Larry blushed, shrugging.
“Can’t take credit for those, whoever’s processing the powder isn’t as stupid as this lot. They figured those out and sent them with the last shipment,” Larry replied.
“Great, I was hoping we were done chasing down game-changing weaponry,” Bill sighed, picking up one of the grenades.
It was squarish and made from clay. Shaking it he heard nothing. Whatever was inside of it was packed tightly. A fuse poked out from the cap of packed clay.
“Shrapnel?” he asked Larry before tucking it back into the straw.
“Nails, bits of scrap metal, whatever they got, it’s not fired clay. They pack ‘em full of powder and it makes a hell of a bang. Not hugely effective but if one goes off right on top of you it could ruin your day,” Larry explained.
“Shit, and they thought of this themselves. Who taught them how to make black powder?” Bill asked.
“Heh, that was all me, I’m afraid. They already had some ideas about brimstone and charcoal, I just sorted them out on the potassium nitrate. Saltpeter. They’ve got some processing facility up at the quarry that supplies the rocks for this stupid fort,” Larry admitted.
“Any idea where it is?” Bill asked.
“Nah, I know it’s about two weeks between shipments of stone but I’m not sure if they could make the trip faster if they wanted,” he replied.
Bill pulled Rekka off the trembling guard before the man had an accident, pushing him down next to the warden who sat on the ground, glaring at everyone and everything.
“Alright, where are you keeping the schematics?” he asked the warden.
“I’ll never tell you. Just you wait until Lord Flavius returns. He’ll send you packing!” the little man spat.
The guard edged away, wanting to distance himself from such suicidal bravery.
“Recognize this sword, dick? Flavius isn’t returning, count on that,” Bill responded, tapping at the hilt over his shoulder and glaring down at him.
The warden’s eyes widened as he took in the stolen gear Bill was wearing. Eventually, his stubborn look returned.
“Be that as it may, I am duty bound to resist you, scoundrel,” the warden said defiantly.
“Look, I get it. But this place just isn’t that big. You can either save me a few minutes of tearing this keep apart or I toss you to the inmates downstairs. They’re not as nice as us,” Bill said as Rekka and Tabitha came up alongside him.
The plucky little man seemed ready to defy them all until he heard Larry chamber a round. Looking over at the angry gunsmith the man realized he’d be lucky to make it out of the room, much less into the warm embrace of the disgruntled prisoners.
“Indeed. Very well, the schematics are in the box under my desk,” he said, crossing his arms as he glared at Larry.
Bill investigated the desk finding a polished wooden box with brass hinges. Long and flattened, it looked like an expensive cigar box, only larger. He popped the latches and looked inside, finding a thick stack of folded schematics. Tossing them onto the desk he discovered a complicated assortment of tools and devices, cleverly packed into soft crevices. Larry perked up at the sight of the open box.
“Hey! There it is, my reloading gear. I had to make that from scratch with only a blacksmith for help. He thought horseshoes were complicated,” Larry grumped, moving across to Bill to claim the box, who shrugged and slid it over to him. He’d been exposed to reloading ammunition by his survivalist father but the box looked more like a mad scientist’s kit to him.
That out of the way, Bill decided to loot the room for anything useful. Pulling open drawers he pawed through the papers and useless odds and ends. He found a beautiful map which he spread out over the desk. The only other thing of remark was a purse of mostly gold coins, which he pocketed immediately.
As he looked over the map Bill realized he still couldn’t read the written language.
“Hey, Larry. You’ve been here a while. Can you read this chicken scratch?” Bill asked.
Larry regretfully tore himself away from cataloging his tools to look over at the map.
“Not really, I only have their numbers and measurements down. I can tell you that’s roughly one hundred square miles, probably just the surrounding area. Huh, I wonder what the continent looks like,” Larry replied thoughtfully.
Bill shrugged, maybe they could find a globe around here if these Luddites even believed the world was round.
Hell, maybe this world is flat, Bill thought.
For all he knew, they could be floating through space on the back of a giant turtle.
On the map he could make out the forest and what he guessed was the fort. Following the road north, it split towards the west and terminated in what looked like hills or small mountains. There was a label there and it was circled. There were a few other labeled areas which followed the road mostly and were spread far apart. Otherwise, there were many large “Here Be Dragons” looking gaps in the map. Small towns surrounded by miles of nothing, he surmised. He’d have to pump the warden for more information.
“The quarry where you get the powder, how far from here?” Bill asked the warden, while Rekka hopped up on the desk to look at the map with interest.
“I’ll concede you have me at your mercy here, but I’ll be damned if I betray those men, fiend!” the warden sneered, his chin raised. Bill sighed, rolled his eyes and looked at the guard.
“Hey, you look like a man who wants to live to see tomorrow,” Bill said, waving his hand at him to speak up.
“About three days travel, maybe faster if you push the horses,” the man said, now as far from the warden as possible in the cramped quarters and pointedly ignoring his superior’s glare. “Just follow the road north, take the western branch, goes all the way to the quarry.”
Bill nodded, suspecting as much. Gazing around and not finding anything worth stealing he found himself looking over Larry’s disheveled prison uniform.
“Hey, warden. Where do you keep your clothes?” Bill asked, grinning at the small man.
“Man, I really have lost weight. Surprised this all fits,” Larry said, tugging at his new coat.
They’d raided the warden’s wardrobe, finding a wide assortment of mostly useless frippery. The sturdy coat, silk shirt, leggings, and high riding boots were the only appropriate clothes for travel. Now they waited outside the stables as Bill directed one of the more obedient guards loading up the warden’s carriage with supplies and horses.
“Looks pretty good on you, should have kept the hat,” Bill said with a grin.
“It had more feathers than a peacock,” Larry said, scowling.
“Well, Tabitha sure likes your new look,” Bill said, nodding up at her.
Tabitha was currently standing just behind Larry where she’d been acting as his shadow since meeting him. It had been fairly difficult to persuade her to remain outside the room as Larry changed.
“I liked the hat, but it still looks nice,” she said, raising her paw to brush Larry’s sleeve.
Larry craned his neck up at her, clearly ill at ease to have the large woman looming over him constantly, but preening slightly under her compliment.
“Ah, thank you, Tabitha. Your, uh, outfit… Jesus. Yeah, it’s nice, too,” he responded, blushing furiously as he tore his eyes away from her body.
Bill couldn’t blame him, though heavily muscled women weren’t his thing. Tabitha was built like a brick house, and remarkably beautiful to boot. He wondered what she looked like when she smiled and suspected Larry would find out long before he did.
Bill watched with interest as Tabitha’s expression shifted to that of a lovestruck teenager, blushing herself while she twisted her feet bashfully. She eventually regained her composure, resuming her expressionless mask. Bill wasn’t fooled, though, not while she purred like a diesel engine.
Rekka approached at that moment, sparing a beaming smile for the purring Tabitha before falling into Bill’s arms.
“Finished, husband! We pushed all the bits into the center, ready to burn it up!” she said, happily receiving her ear scratches of praise.
“Thanks, beautiful. Let’s go make sure it’s done properly. I’d hate for all this to have been wasted effort,” he said, walking towards the group of ex-inmates.
They’d gathered a huge pile of wood from the collapsed guard towers and placed all the schematics and broken muskets in the center. Bill nodded at Cato, then hefted the small barrel of powder. He spread as much as he could throughout the pile before walking backward a few feet leaving a trail. He tossed the empty barrel into the pile and looked around, wondering how he was going to light the damn thing.
“Here, Bill,” Cato said, tossing him a torch.
“Thanks, Cato. Everyone move back, for all I know this is going to explode instead of just burn quickly,” Bill said, waving them back.
Larry shrugged, unconcerned.
“It’s just loose powder, should just make a nice fireball. We could really just have saved it and made a regular fire,” he said, plainly wishing to keep the barrel filled with explosives. Probably wanted to sleep with it like a teddy bear. The crate of grenades they’d stashed in the carriage would have to assuage his need for carnage.
Bill waited until Rekka moved far enough behind him before touching the torch to the powder. With a flash of smoke and fire, it streaked towards the pile. Once it met the powder spread throughout the wood the entire pile whooshed into flame and smoke, sending a large burst of fire heavenward.
Now it burned merrily, just a normal large bonfire.
“Right, once that burns itself out, there shouldn’t be anything recognizable left,” Bill said, turning to Cato. “I really don’t want to stick around but if you guys are, burying what’s left would make the world a safer place.”
“I plan on leaving in the morning myself. I’ll see it done,” Cato replied, looking at Bill appraisingly. “What exactly is your purpose here, Bill? Why have you done this?”
“Honestly? We’re going to save the world. For humanity and mamono both,” Bill replied, shrugging off the absurdity of his own statement.
“I see… Well, I wish you luck in that, though I’m not sure how you’ll manage it. Take care, Bill,” Cato said, shaking Bill’s hand.
Bill returned the handshake, then noticed movement from the stone tower. He’d forgotten about the archer.
“Hey! You might as well come on down, fights over,” Bill yelled, tossing a small rock into the air and catching it. Surprisingly, the man responded.
“I’ll just stay up here, thank you all the same,” he called back.
“I’m not leaving you with that bow, otherwise you can starve up there for all I care,” Bill yelled at him.
The bow sailed off the turret to clatter onto the roof of the keep. Shrugging, Bill ignored the man. He was harmless now, and they were leaving in any case.
“What are you going to do about the guards? I’m not one for cold-blooded murder myself, but I don’t plan on sticking around to watch either,” Bill asked Cato.
“They’re disarmed and were never unreasonably cruel to us. Most of them were just doing their jobs, I can respect that. The warden, though, he was not well loved. I’ll not touch him but the rest probably have the rope ready,” Cato said.
“Well, I suppose that’s understandable. I recommend just tying them up outside the fort, I’m sure there’s a few lonely singles out there that’d just love to meet them,” Bill said, pulling Rekka to his side.
“Yeah! There’s a manticore flyin’ around up there right now, she’s already got her eye on that guy in the tower,” Rekka said. Bill scanned the night sky, seeing nothing, but taking her word for it.
Cato just nodded, lost in his own somber thoughts.
Bill, Rekka, Tabitha, and Larry gathered back at the stables, looking over their stolen carriage. He had all the supplies he could think of packed into the box hanging from its rear. Two horses had been hitched to it professionally by the disarmed guard, now standing awkwardly next to them.
“Oh, uh, you can follow us out of the gates if you want. I guess I owe you for sorting out the horses,” Bill said.
“No thanks, I’ll take my chances with the prisoners,” the man replied, backing away with his eyes on the mamono. Turning, he jogged off to gather with the other defeated guards.
“Right, guess I’ll try driving this thing. Doesn’t look too hard,” Bill said. Turning to Larry and Tabitha he waved at the open doors of the carriage.
“You two take it easy in the coach. Get to know each other a little better,” Bill said as he leered.
Larry darted away from Tabitha to lean in next to Bill for a hurried conversation.
“Just to be clear, she’s not going to eat me, is she?” he whispered.
“Rekka hasn’t tried that with me yet, but I wouldn’t rule it out,” Bill said, grinning.
“Well, fuck it… If I don’t make it out, tell my story,” Larry said, tugging his new jacket straight and grimly walking up to the carriage.
“After you, miss,” he said to Tabitha, who prowled into the dark interior, her purr picking up again.
The carriage was jostled a bit by her weight but was constructed well. There were handrails for a squad of guards to hang from it, so it couldn’t be much strained by a single jinko. Larry joined her, the doors closing with some finality.
Bill climbed into the driver’s bench, pulling Rekka up to sit beside him.
“See, I told you this plan would work,” Bill said, kissing her on the forehead before gathering up the reigns.
“I ‘spose so. Guess havin’ a lucky husband is almost as good as a smart one,” Rekka replied, smiling as she leaned into him.
“It’s better. Luck has worked out great for me. I met you, for one,” Bill said, scratching her ear. “Larry is smart, and he just spent a few months getting beat on and enslaved.”
A sharp thump sounded from the carriage behind them. Bill wasn’t sure if Larry had heard him and objected, or if Tabitha had made her move.
Flicking the reigns, Bill was pleased to see the horses understood him and the carriage began to roll towards the now open gates.
“Yeah, I’ll take luck any day,” Bill said, grinning happily as they rolled out of the prison, turning north to follow the road.
To be continued…
There, the first six chapters of my silly little adventure. From now on I’ll be posting single chapters only. Thanks for reading! I hope you were entertained.