Apologies for the long time without any updates. Been a real rough year for me, but I won’t bore you with the details. I’m sure everyone who was interested in this story has long since moved on, but I just had to get back to it for my own mental health. Anyway, here’s chapter 7. I hope you enjoy it:
Larry was having an interesting day.
It had started fairly normally, as far as normal could be measured these days. His guard had been almost polite in waking him, this time. He’d only laid in with the boots after Larry curled back under the covers and told him where he could stick his spear.
Larry had real problems with authority. His only satisfaction lately had come from dragging his feet when ordered to do anything and petty acts of sabotage.
His guards mostly understood the work avoidance, they did plenty of that themselves. They only got steamed when Larry “accidentally” spilled molten metal across the forge. The off-duty guards had to spend a couple hours trying to keep the fires contained to the room, and they hated doing extra work. Not being able to have any equipment repaired for a solid week had caused merry hell for the entire fort. The black eye and cracked rib that stunt had earned him was almost worth it to see the new shade of red coloring the warden’s face.
This day, though, Larry had been fresh out of ideas for malicious non-compliance. He was going to wait for his latest bruises to fade away before he tried anything. Something to do with horseshoe nails, perhaps. With those happy thoughts of workplace negligence bouncing around in his head, Larry spent the day doing actual labor.
He’d lost track of the time as he ground and filed the new barrels. Once more the absurdity of his current conditions got to him. His angry mutterings nearly woke his guard, asleep on a stool in the corner. Glaring at his tools, Larry’s thoughts drifted back to when he had been content.
His life had been perfect, he’d been on track for a plush job with a huge faceless corporation as a happy little drone. He was close to finishing his degree from his almost impressive university, and he even enjoyed the field of mechanical engineering he’d fallen into for lack of any other interests. He could hardly wait to start earning buckets of cash doing monkey work with his shiny new degree so he could spend his evenings knocking back beers and playing video games.
Larry’s last moments in a sane and normal world had been spent in his dorm’s communal showers, trying to avoid touching the mildew tainted walls and too hungover to jerk off. His headache not being soothed by standing under the hot spray, he decided he’d ditch his classes today, maybe drink some more beer and feel sorry for himself. Pulling the clean looking but almost certainly filthy shower curtain aside, he froze and stared dumbly.
Instead of the dingy row of sinks, all he could see was a wall of pure white. Focusing his eyes, he could see it was some kind of flat ovoid plane. Just sitting there, doing nothing. He really wished he’d decided to risk full body athlete’s foot and crawled under the stalls to get around it. Instead, stupidly, he’d waved his hand through the thing and immediately been sucked screaming into it. He felt himself being drawn along a bright tunnel for several terrifying seconds only to be spat out into the shittiest place imaginable.
He found himself prone on cold stone, surrounded by jabbering lunatics. He must have slipped and hit his head in the shower. This was the only explanation fitting this madness. It looked like he was in an old church of some kind, and the parishioners were into Renfaire like nothing he’d ever seen. Half of them were in Gregorian monk robes, the others were decked out in shiny plate mail. The head lunatic looked like some lame fat cosplay of Saruman, minus the staff.
Two of the knights grabbed him and pulled him to his feet, his towel deciding it wanted no part of it and staying on the ground.
“Jesus! What the fuck is going on? Let me go you LARP nerds, my dicks hanging out!” Larry had squawked, too angry to be afraid.
They’d ignored him, continuing to jabber at him in Klingon or something, until the wizard wannabe silenced them. He strode forward, placing his hand on Larry’s forehead, then slapped it back like a faith healer. Larry was surprised to feel something fizzle through his brain, kicking his hangover into high gear. He immediately lost the beery contents of his stomach all over fat Gandalf’s white robes.
He guessed that must have shocked them out of their roleplaying, because they stopped talking in Dothraki. The head geek was real upset about his robes, probably sewn up by his mother.
“Punish the infidel, brothers,” he said with cold malice.
Larry was thrown back to the ground and learned just how historically accurate those greaves were. He felt every rivet as they punted him around like a hacky sack. The knights were practiced at this. Every time he started to go numb with shock they’d work over another area.
After the sun burned out, but before the heat death of the universe, the wizard called them off and he was hauled to his feet. As he hung limply between two knights Larry tried to remember what he’d done to piss off the Society for Creative Anachronism. The dick wizard then grabbed Larry by the hair and forced him to look up at him.
“Now you understand your position, yes?” he asked, not bothering to wait for a reply. “I know of your world, and the weapons your peoples possess. You will craft them for us. I know you have the skill. I pulled you from such a place of learning,” he said with the absolute certainty he would be obeyed.
“You may nod that you understand me. I know you will be experiencing difficulty using speech after your… lesson.”
“F-fuck you, freak. I’m not roleplayin’ with you shitheads… This is assault, kidnappin’,” Larry managed to spit out, along with a mouthful of blood. He was disappointed he was too weak to get any on the cosplaying wizard.
Things went about as well as you would expect after that. After several more beatings and interrogations, lasting days, Larry began to realize something was really off about this place and his kidnappers. Everything came into sharp focus when he realized he was no longer hearing or even speaking English. Larry had never been much for wild imaginings, but he had to finally admit he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
After his epiphany, and near mental breakdown, he started being a good little boy. He’d make them anything they wanted if they’d stop beating him, now that he knew the FBI wasn’t about to kick in the door and shoot up the local cult.
One of the dumber knights had hauled him into a wagon in the dead of night and they’d spent a couple of miserable weeks traveling between medieval looking peasant villages. Larry couldn’t understand it. Maybe he’d gone back in time, but the language was like nothing he’d ever heard before.
Eventually they reached his new home, some dingy pile of logs and rocks they called Fort Carcere. He settled in, designing primitive firearms and teaching apes the secret of fire. It took months before he could even begin to make his first prototype. He had to make the tools he could use to make the tools that were precise enough to actually craft the weapon. Whenever he slowed his work the beatings would continue until his morale improved.
They’d been impressed by the “Boomstick Mk. I” but told him they wanted more easily produced weapons and sent him back to the drawing board. Larry had been insulted, so he constructed the most primitive piece of shit he could think of, a single shot powder musket. The troglodytes had been delighted and ordered him to make more.
That was pretty much how he had spent the rest of his enslavement. A long series of petty revolts and a terrible work ethic. He imagined it would have been pretty similar to his preferred career except he wasn’t getting any beer or video games.
Larry’s angry muttering and half mad arguments with himself finally woke his guard. The man decided the work day was over, brought him his dinner, and locked him into the workshop that doubled as his bedroom. They didn’t let him out anymore after he’d started dropping manure into the stewpot. He had the tools to break out, but he was saving that surprise for a special occasion. Like if he ever got his hands on some poison. Larry then crawled into his pallet assuming he’d be woken again to start the whole depressing affair over, despairing he’d ever get home again.
Of course, that didn’t happen. Someone attacked the fort, waking him with the sounds of mayhem and battle. Then his door was kicked in by a mad man who’d shrugged off Larry’s adrenaline-fueled swing of a wrought iron rifle barrel like it was whiffle bat.
The big oaf turned out to be a redneck from his own world. He’d started a riot, trashed the place, and re-kidnapped Larry for his own purposes. The lucky bastard even had a sexy beast-woman falling all over him and had brought along a larger tiger-striped spare. Because why not.
Larry had wanted to strangle him for being so happy-go-lucky. The jerk seemed to actually be enjoying his time in this nightmare world. Watching him casually destroy months of his labor had stung more than he was willing to admit. Still, he did break him out. Gave him back his precious prototype and got him close enough to the warden to get in a few kicks of his own.
Now, apparently Bill was leading them on some ridiculous quest to “save the world”. Larry figured this awful place could crash into the sun, as long as Bill showed him how to get back home before it happened.
Firstly, he’d need to sort out this huge, absurdly hot tiger lady sitting across from him.
Tabitha was leaning towards him, large enough to be nearly in his face as he slouched back into his own bench seat. She was smelling him again, but at least this time she was doing it sort of normally, keeping her eyes open and breathing through her nose. Larry was having trouble deciding if he was afraid or aroused as he watched her impressive breasts rise and fall when she drew in each shuddering breath. They looked appropriate for her frame, but he was pretty sure they were each bigger than his head. He pondered how she tied on that simple green leather halter-top with those big claws of hers.
Larry followed a drop of perspiration as it slid down her breast to her rippling bronzed abs. He’d never been into muscles on a woman before, but Tabitha was quickly changing his mind. He wondered briefly about what they felt like before shaking his head and meeting her eyes again. They were half lidded now, her ears twitching, and her tail was twisting around one of her legs rhythmically.
Larry wasn’t sure what he thought about those parts of her, his fantasies had never included a woman with more body hair than him, even if it was a fetching striped pattern. He should probably act soon before she did… something.
“How are you doing there, Tabitha?” Larry asked, his mild tone surprisingly loud in the close quarters.
Her eyes snapped fully open, and she realized she was rudely pushing into his personal space. Slowly she pulled back, looking embarrassed.
“I’m fine, please don’t run,” Tabitha said quickly, blushing fiercely.
Larry arched his brow at her. The woman seemed to be on edge now, her paws were shaking slightly as she held onto her tail, wringing it anxiously.
“Why would I run? Am I in danger?” Larry asked softly, oddly feeling more concerned for her than himself.
Tabitha’s expression finally changed, showing her true feelings. She looked terrified yet filled with a passionate longing.
“Do you… What do you know about me, I mean jinko?” she asked.
Larry sighed, feeling tired. He would really prefer to get into this after a good night’s sleep. Spontaneously he stood, turned, and slid down next to Tabitha on her side of the coach. His elbow struck the wall with a sharp thump, startling them both before he squirmed against Tabitha’s hip and wedged himself into the seat.
Tabitha went very still as Larry picked up her huge paw and began to examine it curiously. The carriage started rolling just then, rocking them from side to side into each other rhythmically.
“Well, I’m not a complete idiot. I may not know anything about you or your people, but I can see you’re in distress,” Larry said, probing at her paw fingers, watching the claws extend and contract from the pressure. “Something to do with going into heat, am I right?” he asked, looking her in the eye.
Tabitha chewed her lower lip and nodded at him. Larry watched her squirm as he toyed with her paw for a bit before carrying on.
“You’re bigger, stronger than me. Do I have a choice in any of this? Or did Bill just toss me to you like a piece of meat?”
“I’m sorry… It’s so hard to hold back, and you’re… touching me,” Tabitha said, close to tears.
“I’ve just spent months in slavery, and today I thought I’d finally escaped. Am I just trading one prison for another?” Larry started running his fingers through the soft fur of her arm.
“N-no… I, ah, please… I can’t think…” Tabitha stuttered as she shivered under Larry’s touch. She drew in a sharp breath, trying to focus on him. “You don’t like me. I can’t hold myself back much longer, it’s too strong… I should leave, I have to go back,” she said, pulling her arm back and looking ashamed.
Larry tugged her paw with steady force, Tabitha hesitantly allowed it.
“Hey, I’m not against it. I’m just not sure I like being ‘Mr. Right Now’, regardless of how hot you are,” Larry said, laughing at himself as he looked at her body, now covered in a sheen of perspiration.
“I have wanted you since I first smelled you. Your scent… it’s so good. I like your anger, and how gentle you are with your tools. Your fingers… they’re very delicate,” Tabitha trailed off, her paw gripping Larry’s hand in return.
“Well, I guess that’s better than ‘male and breathing’. Do you… have much experience? You’re very strong, Tabitha. You’re not going to… crush me or something are you?” Larry asked, leaving his hand in her paw as he leaned back to watch her.
Tabitha made a slight whimpering noise, swallowing. “No, you would be my first. I would never hurt you, though… Please, let me have you.”
Larry let out a long breath, wishing he’d gotten more rest, because he’d surely be feeling this tomorrow.
“Alright, Tabitha. Just be gentle, and don’t complain if I’m not up to your expectations,” Larry said, chuckling. He really wasn’t looking forward to being a virgin’s memorable disappointment.
Tabitha froze for a moment before breathing out in relief, releasing some of her tension. She surprised Larry with a sudden smile. She was undeniably pretty to him, but the cold mask she held in place seemed to rob her of vitality. Her small happy smile was like a gift for him alone and he found her truly, deeply, beautiful. Larry wished he could have gotten to know her better now, and cursed once again this crazy world he’d found himself in.
“You won’t disappoint me,” Tabitha replied, purring as she placed her paws on his chest. “Your clothes, they’re so nice… I don’t want to rip them,” she said, smiling shyly now.
Larry nodded jerkily, pushing himself to his feet and undressing. He now knew what it felt like to be desired, that was certain. His slow fumbling removal of the unfamiliar clothes seem to entice Tabitha as though he were twirling on a pole for her. She bit her lip and watched his every move with bated breath. He finished stripping off his pants, standing before her nude now, bracing himself on the wall and ceiling as the coach swayed across the uneven road.
Larry felt he ought to be embarrassed, standing naked for the first time in front of a beautiful woman. Instead, he honestly felt a little light, liberated. This was an entirely new experience for him. He had never been the one pursued, always the pursuer. Normally he’d either be begging for affection or giving it up as wasted effort. Tabitha knew what she wanted, and she’d be taking it from him gladly now that he’d consented.
“You’re beautiful,” Tabitha breathed, her tone innocently sincere.
“Thanks,” Larry said, amused but touched all the same.
He waved a hand toward her, “Your turn.”
“Could you… undress me? It’s not easy for me, the knots…” Tabitha said, blushing sweetly.
Larry stepped forward, placing himself directly before her and between her legs. He found it amusing that he was nearly at eye level with her seated height. Wasting no time, he reached around her and tugged the knots apart, pulling her top free. The drawstrings were longer and thicker than the light clothing required, necessary for the use of paws. Still, he could see she would have trouble with this herself.
Tabitha clearly tanned topless, her bronzed breasts standing proudly on her chest, the dark pink nipples firm and pebbled with her excitement. He was amazed how they suited her large frame so well; full, rounded, and soft, but not the dominating feature of her body. Larry restrained himself from attacking their perfection, deciding to play a more passive role than he was accustomed to.
Tabitha began breathing heavily as he kneeled between her legs, reaching for the drawstrings on her bottoms. Slowly he pulled the knots loose, drawing out the moment as Tabitha stared down at him with unblinking intensity. Her breath caught as the knots slid free, the slip of material falling away to expose her dripping sex.
He was surprised to find she did not tan bottomless, the bronze fading as it neared her loins. Larry couldn’t stop himself from sliding his fingers through the tuft of fur above her otherwise bare lips. The fact that it was also tiger striped was unbelievably adorable to him. Tabitha held her breath as he touched her, trembling with excitement.
Larry decided to see what she’d do next. He raised his eyes to hers and smiled, running his hands along her thighs as she shivered, but otherwise waiting for her to take the lead. He half expected her to simply push his face into her crotch, holding him there until she was satisfied, and he was prepared to indulge her. Instead, she brought her soft paws to his chest, running her plush pads over his skin lightly. She seemed to be afraid of hurting him as she explored his body.
Losing patience, Tabitha chuffed out an excited breath and pulled Larry up toward her face. She held him to her body with a paw cupped around his butt, the other cradling his head and neck. He felt a flash of vulnerability but allowed himself to relax and enjoy the new experience. Tabitha’s kiss was artless but she made up for it with enthusiasm. Larry let her mash her lips against his for a bit, enjoying her lack of experience more than he would have thought possible. He decided it was his duty and privilege to try and teach her some technique.
Larry pulled her bottom lip into his mouth, sucking lightly for a moment before pushing his tongue past her lips seeking hers. She growled, pulling him tighter, her tail curling around his back as she attempted to pull him deeper into her embrace. Her tongue responded, lashing at his as she began to imitate him, next pushing her own much larger tongue into his mouth. She explored him with her hot, oddly rough tongue, enjoying this sensual act he’d taught her.
He felt his control slipping as she threw herself completely into kissing him senseless, her pleasantly rough tongue sending shivers down his spine as she growled and sucked at him. Larry began exploring her with his hands, gravitating towards her breasts without conscious thought. She gasped into his mouth as he palmed them, pulling and kneading her nipples with teasing tweaks.
Growling, Tabitha started pulling his hips into her and they both felt his erection sliding across her toned abs. Larry shot a hand down between them to caress her belly, finding the soft skin covering hard muscle to be a strange yet pleasing new sensation. He’d never been so intimate with someone so powerful, finding it a rush.
Tabitha pushed him away, her face flushed and her pupils were thin vertical slits as she chuffed and murmured to him. She looked almost out of it, like she’d been drugged.
“I need you. Now,” Tabitha said huskily, lust and passion filling her.
“Yeah,” Larry replied, feeling a little disoriented himself.
He tried to place his feet on the ground, wondering how he was going to climb this mountain. Tabitha just pulled him closer, hunching over him and spreading her legs as she brought his hips toward hers. Larry was starting to feel like some kind of sex toy at this point and struggled a little to remind her he was a willing partner.
“Hold it, Tabby, let me… sort us out. This is probably going to hurt at first,” Larry said, blindly reaching for her mound. He found her lips, soaking, heat radiating from her. Testing, he pressed a finger into her, expecting her size would make her a little looser than he was used to. Gently he curled his finger through her soft inner lips, finding her entrance. Sliding the probing digit in, he nearly cursed aloud as her muscles clamped down on him with incredible force. If she wasn’t so wet and soft the only way he’d be getting his finger back was if she allowed it.
“Ah, Jesus. Think I may be the one hurting here,” he said, forging ahead regardless.
While Tabitha whimpered and growled incoherently, seeming to be lost in her primal needs, Larry grasped his member and slid it up and down her lips, coating himself in their mingling fluids and lining them up together. With a silent prayer to any god that might be listening, he slowly, oh so deliciously slowly, pushed into her.
“Oh, fuck,” Larry moaned, not even halfway in as her muscles began to spasm and clamp down on him. Gasping, somehow out of breath, he leaned his face into Tabitha’s breasts and waited for her to relax. Instead, she flexed her paw around his ass for an instant before pulling him relentlessly into her. It was Larry’s turn to whimper and shudder, nearly driven to tears from the hot slick pressure as she pulled him into her.
Tabitha hissed suddenly, tensing, which caused Larry to cry out wordlessly and clutch at her as he buried his face into her breast and shook like a leaf. Drawing in a deep breath, Tabitha pulled him completely into her a single swift jerk.
Tabitha’s roar of pain nearly deafened him, but the full force of her clamping muscles on his cock took all of his attention. He was seriously worried that this was injuring him, and if the sensations of her spasming milking contractions weren’t currently ripping coherent thought from him, he might have tried to escape.
Instead he simply clung to her, his legs wrapped around hers in an obscene reverse leglock as he instinctively ground into her hips with his own. His arms struggled for purchase, finally catching hold of her muscled arms that wrapped around him and holding on for dear life. If she started moving now, he was sure he’d lose his mind. It was bad enough that every sway and bump of the carriage was sending jolts through his entire body.
Thankfully, Tabitha seemed to be in much the same state, arms wrapping him as she hunched possessively over him, her face pressed to the top of his head as she panted. They stayed like that for what seemed an age, until Tabitha began to chuff and grunt.
“Ah, God,” Larry whimpered. She wasn’t moving, but now she seemed to be deliberately flexing and milking him. He was losing it, he’d never felt anything like this. He wasn’t thrusting, and still he felt his back might break from his inability to relax, grinding into her with all of his strength as he gritted his teeth and screwed his eyes shut, every muscle in his body tensed to its breaking point.
“Give it to me,” Tabitha hissed with desire before pushing back his head, exposing his neck. Bearing her fangs, she latched onto the meaty area between his neck and shoulder. Larry’s eyes flew open, shocked, afraid, and incredibly aroused. He couldn’t relax, couldn’t fight her, and couldn’t escape the pleasure or the pain. She wasn’t ripping him apart but he knew she must be drawing blood.
Something had to give, and it was a tossup whether his body or his mind broke first.
Without conscious thought his body defended itself the only way it could. His breath left him in a whoosh as he fell limp, surrendering to her and simultaneously erupting inside her soft velvet folds that spasmed and clenched around him mercilessly. Growling her approval into his neck, Tabitha climaxed, her shuddering contractions milking his seed with primal intent as she forcefully held his hips to her own.
Larry simply hung in her embrace, panting. His shoulder ached, his joints were signaling their own grievances, and he honestly thought he may have sprained his back. Otherwise, he felt incredible, luxuriating in the afterglow of the most absurdly intense orgasm he had ever experienced.
Tabitha shivered, growling in contentment as the aftershocks crashed through her in waves, her teeth still clamped firmly to Larry’s unresisting neck. With one last shuddering wave of pleasure she relaxed, removing her teeth from him. Immediately she began to lick at the wound. It wasn’t deep, and the bleeding soon stopped.
“Thank you. Oh, thank you, you were wonderful,” Tabitha burbled softly into his ear as she cleaned his wound and stroked his back.
“Mmph,” Larry replied eloquently, too worn out to respond any other way as he lay limp in her arms, feeling more than hearing the purr rumble through her chest. He didn’t care what happened next. He was going to sleep, just like this.
Tabitha had other plans. She began to grip and massage him with her folds once again, and his traitorous dick responded eagerly. Larry gave up, she could do what she wanted but he was going to just lie back and endure.
Tabitha gripped him in one paw by the waist, the other slipping behind to cup his ass as she began rocking him into her. Larry whimpered and moaned, unable to help himself. Tabitha continued to purr, sending pleasant vibrations through his body. As she began to speed up a memory stirred in Larry’s mind.
He’d once spent an entire weekend lying on his bed drinking beer, watching Animal Planet. The calm British announcer had detailed the mating habits of large cats in lurid detail. Wild tigers were known to mate twenty times a day, captive tigers more than that.
“Pl-please, don’t be… Ah! Don’t be tame,” Larry gasped.
“Yes! I can go faster!” Tabitha responded ecstatically.
I hate this world, Larry thought and for the first time not sure if he meant it.
A loud roar burst forth from the carriage behind them, startling the horses into a faster pace for a few moments. Bill whipped his head back over his shoulder.
“Jesus. She wouldn’t really eat him, would she?” he asked.
“Oh, ain’t it romantic!” Rekka gasped, ignoring his question.
Bill shook his head, waggling the reins at the horses until they settled down. They didn’t seem to be paying much attention to him but they stayed on the road and moved at a steady pace, so he decided not to push the issue.
“Yeah, romantic. Feel like I just tossed a mouse to a python. Ah well, I’ll apologize when she spits him out,” Bill replied.
Rekka giggled before pushing herself under Bill’s arm to snuggle into his lap. He responded by scratching at her ears with the hand not holding onto the reins. It was still quite dark as they traveled, and they enjoyed being able to relax together after their adventure at the prison fort. Rekka twisted around until she was comfortable, staring up at Bill.
“Husband, why’re we goin’ north?” she asked.
“Mm, yeah. Sorry I didn’t discuss it with you back there, I just wanted to get out of that prison as quickly as possible,” Bill replied, running his hand through her hair.
“Looks like we have another caper to pull off. They’ve got grenades and black powder up at the quarry, you saw it on the map. We’ll have to do something about that,” Bill explained.
“Why’s that powder such a big deal?” Rekka asked.
“It explodes if you package it right. I’ll show you how with one of the grenades when we get a moment, I’m curious how effective they are myself. Anyway, if we can shut down that operation, I’ll breathe much easier,” Bill said.
“Okay… but why you? Why us? This ain’t our job,” Rekka asked, curious.
Bill pondered how to answer that for a few moments while scratching and petting Rekka, comforting them both.
“Well, I do feel a bit responsible. The powder, the guns, they’re from my world. It’d be a damn shame for this world to suffer because a few assholes from back home rolled in with fancy tech that won’t be discovered for, hell… ever, probably,” Bill said.
“Anyway, this is my world now, and I’d like to enjoy it without having to dodge fucking knights with shotguns and grenades instead of swords.”
Rekka remained silent, eyes closed as she enjoyed his fingers on her scalp for a bit. Finally, her eyes popped open and she spoke.
“Somethin’ tells me you ain’t gonna stop there, though.”
“Heh, yeah. I do have some ideas, but let’s wait until Tabitha and Larry are done getting to know each other. This may affect them, too.”
Rekka grinned up at him before she squirmed her way up to a seated position, wrapping her legs around him as she faced him. She brought her face forward for a quick kiss, before abruptly licking across his face. She laughed as he sputtered a moment, glaring at her.
“Well, I spose I’ll allow it, since you’re so worked up about it,” she said, “It’s been real fun since I caught you, so long as you don’t get hurt you can go play.”
“Thanks, babe. You’re too kind to me,” Bill deadpanned.
“Damn right! You’re lucky to have such a nice wife. Some wouldn’t let you out of the bedroom until you’d given them at least two pups,” Rekka said, grinning as she snuggled in close for a hug.
Bill smiled wrapping his arms around her, holding her tight for a bit. He was so pleased they had found each other, it was like he’d never been truly happy before meeting her. Relaxing, his free hand drifted lower to scratch at the small patch of fur just above her tail. Rekka gripped him harder, a low pleased growl bubbling out of her throat.
“Fuck, that’s the spot,” she growled, grinding into him a bit.
Bill chuckled, indulging her. Looks like he’d found her scratch reflex. Although, instead of shaking her leg she ground her hips. This fact didn’t surprise him in the least.
“Husband, I need you in me,” Rekka hissed, paws drifting to his belt.
“Well, as long as we don’t spook the horses, I suppose it couldn’t hurt,” Bill said, twisting the reins around his wrist as he lifted his hips to help her remove his pants.
“Don’t care about the horses, listenin’ to them go at it in there is drivin’ me crazy!” Rekka exclaimed, whimpering as she pushed her bottoms to the side and slamming herself down onto him.
“Shit, Rekka! Wait, don’t jostle my arm, the horses are starting to drift!” Bill cried, wincing as his arrow wound was constricted.
He soon forgot his complaints, becoming too engrossed in his writhing panting hellhound to concern himself with anything else. He flung the reins down next to him to focus on his wife. The horses could take care of themselves for a bit.
“It is not much farther now, Felix,” Helena said softly, looking over at him as he walked beside her.
It was early morning and they’d only been walking for a short while. Felix had not wanted to arrive at the fort at night and had recommended they wait for the following day. His decision was entirely influenced by a selfish desire to stay with the beautiful unicorn as long as possible.
“Ah, yes, I believe you’re right, my… Helena,” Felix said, looking into her eyes for a moment.
Felix blushed and looked away. Even after days of traveling together he still had difficulty saying her name. Whenever she looked at him he lost track of what he was saying. He found it nearly impossible to follow her conversation, too distracted by her beauty. He knew she had told him of her travels, healing and aiding those in need, beyond that it was a confusingly pleasant jumble. She seemed a truly selfless creature, free of malice or spite.
Felix could not believe his fortune that she had volunteered to escort him back to Fort Carcere. It seemed the other… ladies would leave him be if she remained at his side. At the same time, he dreaded what could happen if a patrol found them first. Surely, he could convince others of her goodness, though he knew that he would have scoffed at such a claim only days ago. This fear was completely overshadowed by the fact they would be parting ways once he arrived. The time spent in her company had been almost painfully sweet, and now it drew to an end.
“Helena, I must thank you again for escorting me…”
“Felix! Please, I told you no thanks are necessary. I am happy to travel with you,” Helena said, smiling at him, her ears flickering with amusement.
“Yes, you said… I did want to ask you, though… What will you do once we… That is, once I’ve returned to my duties?”
Helena did not answer right away. For once she did not seem a font of peaceful calm. Looking away she began to slip her hands through her hair nervously.
“Well, I suppose I shall continue to travel… Surely there are others that may require my aid.”
“Will I meet you again?” Felix asked, his heart sinking.
“I… I do not know for certain. I typically go where I am needed. Would… Would you want to meet again?”
“Yes!” Felix blurted out before he could stop himself.
Helena turned back to face him, her eyes wide with surprise.
“I mean, that is… Helena, I don’t know. I do want to see you again, really. I’m not sure how I can manage it, though… once I’m back at the fort I’ll have almost no opportunities to leave, and never alone,” Felix said, looking everywhere but Helena.
“Truly? You want to see me again?” Helena asked, ignoring everything else.
“Helena you are the most amazing person I’ve ever met! You’re a… you’re not human, and I’ve been taught to hate your kind. I don’t hate you, though. If… If I did not have my duty, I would wish to… to stay with you. I think if you asked me… I would stay anyway,” Felix said, voice shaking.
“Oh, goodness! You must not do that, Felix. Duty is important. We shall simply have to find a way. I have faith we will,” Helena asserted.
Felix looked at her, not believing what he was hearing. Helena was smiling at him, her face glowed with her happiness. Her horn was literally glowing, the warm white light calming his speeding heart. They had stopped walking and were standing close, looking into each other’s eyes. Felix’s hand seemed to move on its own, reaching for hers. Helena froze like a startled deer and he hesitated, feeling foolish and ashamed. Then, with a soft cry of excitement Helena’s hand slipped into his. Her soft cool hand sent a jolt of electricity through Felix and he gasped, squeezing her gently. The two of them stood there, grinning foolishly at each other.
“I’ve never felt this way before,” Felix said at last, staring into her eyes.
“Oh, Felix, I am so glad to have met you,” Helena responded, her eyes shining.
Simultaneously they blushed, their cheeks glowing hotly as they stared at the ground. Wordlessly they began walking again, still holding hands. They did not speak, simply enjoying the closeness they had found. The time passed quickly, and before he knew it Felix found himself at the edge of the forest.
“We should part here… I fear how the others would react to you, Helena,” Felix said reluctantly, before something caught his eye at the fort. “Wait, the towers… the gates are open!” he exclaimed.
“Is something wrong, Felix?” Helena asked.
“Yes! The gates are never open for longer than it takes to enter or leave. The towers, they’re just… gone!” he replied.
“Oh, my! Please, Felix, come away. I fear something terrible has happened,” Helena said, squeezing his hand.
“You may be right, but I can’t just walk away. They may need help. They may need your help!” Felix said.
His thoughts raced, almost hoping to find injured people Helena could heal, and prove that she was not a monster. They might welcome her, then, and she would not have to leave him at all.
“If you are certain… Mayhap we can ask the gentleman coming towards us,” Helena responded, pointing with her free hand.
Felix looked in the direction indicated, his eyes narrowing as he identified the uniform.
“This isn’t good. I have to stop that man. He’s an escaped prisoner,” Felix stated, grimacing when he reached for his missing sword.
“Could you not simply speak with him? Perhaps we can find a peaceful resolution,” Helena said with concern as she gripped his hand tighter.
“You don’t understand, Helena. These are not good men, most of them…” Felix trailed off.
Fort Carcere was a penal fortress, built by and housing men who were a threat to humanity as a whole. Eventually the men could earn their freedom through labor and good behavior to join the frontier town that would be built around the fort, assuming settlers could be found and convinced to relocate. In the past the men would simply be executed for their crimes, but now only the most heinous acts merited the loss of manpower.
Most of their crimes were fraternization with monsters. The very crime Felix now found he was guilty of himself, he realized.
“Well, some of them are murderers in any case,” he continued. “I’ll go meet him. Please, stay here and remain safe.”
“No! I shall accompany you. You are unarmed, and surely he would not attack the both of us,” Helena said, gripping his hand harder.
Felix nodded, unwilling to argue with her, or release her hand. They stepped from the shadows of the trees and began to walk towards the escapee. The man stopped to wait for them once he’d spotted them. He was holding an instrument over his shoulder and carrying a sack. As they approached Felix recognized the man, relaxing slightly.
“Cato? What’s happened?” Felix asked.
“Ah, Cluvius. Given you up for dead. Prematurely, I see. I doubt your fellow guards would approve of your current company,” Cato responded, glancing meaningfully at their held hands. “Hello, miss,” Cato greeted Helena, nodding and adjusting the shovel over his shoulder.
“Ah, yes… Helena, meet Cato. Helena saved my life,” Felix replied.
“A pleasure to meet you, Cato,” Helena greeted him.
“Likewise, miss,” Cato said with a smile. “Finding a new perspective are you, Cluvius? I don’t recommend bringing her home unless you want to be marched back here in chains.”
“Please, Cato, how did you escape? What happened here? The other guards… Are they alive?” Felix pleaded.
“Aye, most of them are alive, I imagine. We tied their hands and sent them out of the fort in the night. No doubt a few of them are committing crimes against humanity as we speak,” Cato said bitterly.
“Don’t enter the fort, you’d not be welcomed by its new owners,” he finished.
“I must admit that is… more kind than I expected from you and your fellows,” Felix said. “How did you manage it?”
Cato barked out a short laugh, saying, “We did almost nothing. The fort was attacked by a mad man and his mamono wives. They armed us and tore down the towers. They weren’t here for us, though. They were after the weapons maker. Freed him and destroyed all his work,” Cato said, then shook the sack he carried resulting in a metallic clatter.
“A mad man? Oh Gods. Name of Bill, accompanied by a small hellhound?” Felix asked with a groan.
“You’ve met, I see. Yes, he does make an impression. Don’t worry, they’ve left – headed north in the warden’s carriage,” Cato said with a slight smile.
“But why? Why did he do this, and what is he planning farther north?” Felix asked.
“Believe it or not, he said he’s going to save the world – for humanity and mamono both,” Cato said with a chuckle.
“My, he sounds very noble, this man Bill,” Helena said.
Felix and Cato shared a knowing look.
“Well, no… he seems a great fool, to be honest. Amiable enough, but mad,” Cato replied.
Felix nodded, frowning. “That is what I thought at first, as well. I don’t know what to think anymore,” he said, glancing at Helena. “Cato, what are you going to do now?”
“Bill asked one thing of me before he left, I’m going to attend to that,” Cato said, then sighed. “After that, I’ve nothing left. I envy you, Cluvius. Take Helena and go far from here, find a place that welcomes you.”
“What do you mean, sir?” Helena asked with concern. “Surely you can find happiness as well.”
Cato snorted, shaking his head. “I had happiness. I was a fisherman, you know, before. I met an undine. She was my heart, my joy. I never knew such peace, and never again will.” He closed his eyes for a moment, reliving the memory.
“We were discovered, of course. The holy knights were sent to capture me and destroy her. I did the only thing I could,” Cato said woodenly. “…the terrible things I said to drive her away. It broke my heart, but it was the only way I could make her safe. When they found me by the river bank she was gone, and I pray she stayed that way.”
Felix did not know what to say, feeling pity for the man now that he understood his loss. Looking over at Helena he felt a deep chill in his stomach at the thought of men coming for her simply because he… felt the way he did about her. Helena looked close to tears, her ears hanging low. Then she surprised him by gasping, bringing a hand to her mouth.
“She was an undine, you say? Oh my! Was she named Cassandra, perchance?” she asked.
Cato’s eyes flashed to hers, surprise written on his features. “You knew my Cassy?” he asked.
Helena’s hooves seemed to dance in place for a moment, startling Felix. “Oh my! Yes, I know her! She is here Cato. She loves you still! She waits for you in the waterways of this forest. She spoke to me of you, though she never told me your name. She followed you as best she could but found no way to reach your side, so she remains for you here as close as she may.”
“She forgave me, after all I said?” Cato asked, tears running heedlessly down his cheeks.
“Oh, Cato, of course she has. She was merely shocked by your words when she fled your side, but she came to understand you were only trying to protect her,” Helena answered, tears filling her own eyes.
“I must go to her, try to make things right. Thank you, Helena, you’ve given my life meaning again,” Cato said, brushing a sleeve through his tears. “Cluvius, good luck to you, keep her safe. Take my advice, turn around and head back into the forest. There is nothing but heartache for you two farther north.”
With a nod of farewell Cato strode purposely into the forest. Felix and Helena watched him go, their hands still held tightly together. Helena smiled happily through her teary eyes, sniffling cutely before looking to Felix.
“He may be right, Felix. It would appear your duty is no more, does it not?” she asked.
“It does seem that way…,” he replied before staring towards the north, his expression firming with purpose. “Helena, I want to speak with the man Cato told us of, this Bill. He says he wants to save the world, and perhaps he’s simply as mad as he appears… but I would like to know for certain.”
“Oh, wait a moment, was he not the one who wounded you, Felix?” she asked, worried.
Felix shrugged, rubbing at his neck. “Well, no, the hellhound did that. In fact, he’s the one that bound my wound and gave me the crutch,” Felix explained.
“Oh… he did not do a very good job, but I suppose his heart was in the right place,” she said uncertainly.
“Yes, I think so too. He does not seem to be a complete villain, if nothing else,” Felix said, squeezing her hand. “Will you accompany me? If he is just a fool, we can simply return. I don’t think they are dangerous if not provoked.”
“I will go where you go, Felix, as long as you will have me,” Helena said quietly, “But how will we find them?”
Felix laughed, giving her hand a slight squeeze. “I imagine we just follow the path of destruction.”
Giving the fort a wide birth, they made their way north towards the road. No one bothered them and the only movement Felix saw was from the stone turret. There appeared to be some commotion up there and he thought he spied large bat-like wings for a moment but decided he must be seeing things.
The carriage door swung open with squeaky hinges, revealing Larry’s drawn face as he blinked owlishly into the noonish sunlight. Slowly and carefully he stepped down to the ground with shaky legs, clinging to the door until he was sure they would support him. He wore only his leggings, without shirt or boots. Turning he spoke quietly into the carriage.
“Yes, don’t worry I said I’m coming back… just have to use the restroom, Tabby.”
Larry wobbled off to the side of the road. He stopped, staring grimly across the short distance to the nearest privacy screen of bushes. With an exhausted sigh he untied his breeches and did his business in full view of anyone bothering to watch.
“Hey, you raised in a barn or something?” an irritatingly jovial voice called.
Larry pointedly ignored it, finishing and shaking himself off before tying the laces of his breeches up. Facing the voice, he saw Bill standing beside the horses. Rekka was lounging on top of the carriage, grinning down at him like some kind of Cheshire wolf. He looked into the carriage seeing Tabitha watching him carefully, concern in her eyes. Larry waved to her before limping over to Bill.
“How many days has it been?” Larry rasped out.
Bill tossed him a waterskin, waiting for Larry to drink deeply and return the skin before answering.
“I’d say… about eight hours?”
Larry stared at him dully for a moment before his eyes narrowed with suspicion.
“Don’t fucking lie to me, man. I’ve been in that carriage for at least two days, I’m sure of it.”
Bill laughed heartily, echoed by a girlish giggle from the hellhound on the roof.
“I know how you feel, dude. Seriously, sun’s only been up for a few hours. It’s a hell of an experience, huh?”
Larry looked back over to the carriage door, seeing Tabitha leaning out to keep him in view. He gave her a shaky smile, which she returned with a small sweet one of her own. Bill hummed in surprise causing Larry to turn his attention back to him.
“Yeah… Tabby’s something else. She could crush me so easily, but she doesn’t. What’s up with this place? We’re just a couple of losers, why are these women even bothering with us?” Larry asked, shoulders slumping.
“Speak for yourself, Larry. I’m a catch, right Rekka?”
“Yeah! You can cook and ya got a sweet ass, sugar,” Rekka cheered from her perch.
“See? Rekka knows her shit,” Bill said flippantly, grinning up at Rekka. Then, sighing, his face grew serious.
“Honestly, Larry, liking us seems to be built into their genes. It helps that we don’t see them as horrible monsters, though. I don’t think they’re used to that at all. The history of this world is kind of a nightmare if I think about it too hard,” Bill explained, shaking his head ruefully.
“No shit. Tabby is the only silver lining to this shitstorm of a world, and she might be too much of a good thing,” Larry replied.
“Nice hickey, by the way. Painful?” Bill asked, gesturing towards the bite marks on Larry’s shoulder.
“Not really. Tabby, she’s… enthusiastic I’ll admit, strong as all hell but controlled and gentle… Like no woman I’ve ever met,” Larry replied.
Larry seemed to waver for a second before shaking his head and lurching over to the carriage and leaning into the bench seat. He closed his eyes and breathed out slowly. Opening them, he seemed to take in his surroundings fully for the first time.
“Hey, why are we stopped anyway?”
Bill shrugged and reached over to the closest horse to scratch at its mane and ears. The horse whickered a bit, enjoying the contact.
“Yeah, about that. Rekka… distracted me sometime during the night,” Bill said with a shit eating grin.
“You were pretty distractin’ yourself, husband,” Rekka retorted, stretching provocatively.
“…anyway, I guess I dropped the reins at some point. The horses stopped by themselves and I can’t get them going again for anything. You know horses?” Bill asked.
“Oh, are those horses? Thought they were rabbits,” Larry snarked. “Maybe they’re hungry or something? Let them loose to get some grass.”
“I fed them, we have grain stuff and I figured out those feed bags. They still won’t move, though, and I’m not undoing all these horse attachments without professional help. It did not go well last time,” Bill explained.
Larry grumbled something about useless hicks, pushing himself away from the carriage to wobble over to the horses. He took a long, hard look at all the leads, clips, and buckles.
“That’s a lot more complicated than a leash,” Larry remarked, finally.
“No kidding. Wish I’d kidnapped that guard, now. We could really use a local for this sort of thing. Keep your eyes open. If anyone wanders by, we’ll shanghai them,” Bill said, looking down the road.
“Right, well, you’re the expert at abduction. I’m going to go pass out if Tabby lets me, good luck with the horses,” Larry said as he tottered over to the carriage door.
Bill watched as two great paws reached out to gently pull the unresisting Larry into the carriage. A slim striped tail curled out, tugging the door shut. Turning back to the horses Bill tried prodding at one of them to see if they’d get the hint. The horse’s head just lifted up, giving him some serious side eye.
“Keep that up, Seabiscuit. I’ll feed you to my wife,” Bill growled. “Hey, Rekka, you hungry?”
“You said we don’t eat horses,” Rekka responded, her ears perking up.
“Yeah, I meant in general. We’ve got some time, looks like. I’ll whip us up some breakfast,” Bill said.
Rekka nodded before flipping onto her back to sunbathe on the roof. Bill ambled to the back of the carriage to dig through their supplies for something to eat. He decided on oatmeal with dried fruit for himself and Larry. After all the meat he’d been eating he was looking forward to heading off a bout of scurvy. He’d do something with the dried meat for the women. Rekka had turned her nose up at the idea of eating anything that hadn’t died in screaming torment.
He busied himself making a small fire off to the side of the road. Using his newly stolen camping gear he whipped up fruit porridge and a hearty beef stew. He poured portions into four tin bowls, pleased he’d remembered to loot dishes and cutlery. No more meat on a stick for him.
“Rekka, breakfast,” he called.
Rekka merely flipped a paw over the side of the carriage, imperiously waving for him to come feed her. Bill chuckled, gathered up two bowls and knocked on the side of the carriage. The door opened, giving him a view of a nude Tabitha holding the slumbering Larry to her chest to cover her modesty.
“Hey you lovebirds, breakfast,” Bill announced, enjoying the view as he placed the bowls on one of the bench seats.
“Thank you, Bill,” Tabitha said, her face a picture of calm.
“Anytime… Tabby,” he replied, winking.
Bill was delighted to get a response from her, watching her eyes widen with surprise and a blush spread across her features. Laughing, he pushed the door shut before she melted from embarrassment.
Picking up the other two bowls and a spoon he clambered up to the roof to join Rekka. Settling down cross legged while balancing the two bowls, he set his own aside to focus on his hungry wife. Rekka promptly crawled over to receive her food, flipping over onto his lap. She opened her mouth expectantly while Bill spooned up a choice bit of the hearty stew.
Rekka wolfed it down in her usual way, barely chewing and licking her lips appreciatively.
“Ooh, that’s good! It’s got spices an’ stuff!” she exclaimed, grinning up at Bill for a moment before continuing, “Yep, cookin’ is much better’n makin’ stupid explodin’ sticks. Poor Tabitha is gonna be so jealous I caught the best husband.”
“Hey, don’t get ahead of yourself. Maybe Larry’s a secret chef. Guess I’d better get ready for you to leave me when he whips up his next masterpiece,” Bill replied, feigning a deep sadness while bringing another spoonful to Rekka’s lips.
“Mm. Nah, he’s too shrimpy for me. I like my husband with more meat on his bones,” Rekka replied haughtily. “Sides, I couldn’t do that to Tabitha. She’s smitten with the little guy,” she continued, smiling up at Bill. “Guess I’ll jus’ have to make due with you. We can have him cook and you can just make it up to me in bed, sugar,” Rekka finished, wriggling into his lap a bit while grinning cheekily, the fire in her eyes flaring up.
Bill chuckled, “Remind me to keep an eye out for any weightlifters wearing aprons. I’ll be sure to run them off before they can lead you astray with their bulging biceps and fancy ketchups.”
“They’d have to be pretty fancy whatsits to get me away from you!” Rekka declared, pulling his hand over to lick the spoon. “I don’t want anyone else, you’re it for me, husband,” she said, placing a kiss on his knuckles.
They grinned at each other like a couple of idiots while finishing their meal. Bill insisted Rekka at least try some of the oatmeal. She decided it wasn’t bad, but “Needs more meat.” Bill would try to incorporate more diversity in her meals, hiding it behind the meat for a culinary ambush. Now that he knew she could stomach something besides meat, he wasn’t going to let her get away with not eating her vegetables.
Bellies full, and with the horses still on strike, they decided on a nap to wait out a change in circumstances. Rekka assured him she would wake before anyone could sneak up on them and Bill took her word for it. Laying back with a makeshift cloth sunscreen over his head, he fell asleep with Rekka curled into his side with her head on his shoulder.
“When do you suppose we will encounter them, Felix?” Helena asked.
The two had been traveling along the road for a few hours, and the sun had reached its apex above them. They’d not seen another being as they trekked, and had simply enjoyed each other’s company. Felix considered her question, not fully sure himself.
“I’m not certain, Helena. I hope they are not in any particular hurry. I think as long as we don’t dally ourselves, we should come upon them at some point. There are only a few places they may be going in any case. The next town is a week’s journey to the north, while the stone quarry is closer along the western road,” he replied thoughtfully.
He wished he knew exactly what Bill had planned. If the madman was capable of doing anything that would secure a future for him and Helena, he felt determined to assist him. Felix only hoped Bill’s plan was a good one: based upon forethought, reason, and strategy.
“Why are you sighing, Felix? Are you tired? Shall we rest a bit? Your leg is not bothering you, is it?” Helena asked, concerned.
“Ah, no, Helena. I’m fine, my leg has never felt better, thanks to you,” Felix replied with a smile, squeezing her hand gently. “I’m simply worried about the future. The man we’re following doesn’t fill me with confidence of his competence, I’ll be honest. And yet, he did manage to capture the Fort. I’d have thought it impossible, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”
“What exactly do you hope he will accomplish, Felix?” Helena asked.
“He’s a strange one, Helena. If he can be believed, he knew nothing of the, erm, war between us, humanity that is, and the… mamono,” Felix replied, stumbling over the unfamiliar word and the new reality he found himself in. Helena simply squeezed his hand, waiting for him to finish.
“Yet he called the hellhound his girlfriend, as if he could see past her claws and ferocious nature without a second thought. He was not afraid of her in the slightest… a hellhound!” he said, shaking his head with amazement.
“I have not known many, but while they are very… direct, hellhounds can be wonderfully fine protectors and not at all as terrible as one might expect,” Helena explained, “Unless you threaten their husbands or children, of course.”
Felix laughed, rubbing at his thigh. “Aye, I found that out quickly enough. I hope she isn’t holding a grudge. In any event, Bill doesn’t seem to have our preconceptions of the war. Perhaps he’s thought of a resolution no one else has been able to see, not being blinded by our fear and prejudice. If he knows of a way our peoples can live in peace and give us a future, I want to be a part of it.”
“Oh, Felix! What a wonderful thought. I do hope you are right, for everyone’s sake,” she said, gazing at him with adoration.
Felix immediately lost any misgivings about their current course of action at her words. The beautiful unicorn’s confidence in him bolstered his mood lifting a weight from his shoulders. Together they walked on, their mood joyful and their feet light.
Sometime later the road curved gently around a slight hill with large hedges to each side. Felix and Helena were quite distracted by each other’s company and chatted quietly, and so were taken completely by surprise when a man abruptly launched himself from the concealing bushes into the road directly in front of them.
“Stand and deliver! Hand over the centaur and nobody gets hurt!” the highwayman yelled, waving a large sword over his head. From behind them another bandit moved into position to close off their retreat.
Bill was woken by a sharp pain in his side, he jerked away and cursed, sitting up to see who had assaulted him. Blinking up into the sunlight he saw Rekka grinning cheekily at him waggling one of her clawed digits at him.
“The hell? You couldn’t have just shaken me?” he grumped, checking for blood.
“I did! You sleep like a log, husband,” Rekka replied, hopping to her feet and looking down the road towards the way they’d come. “Someone’s comin’, I can smell em,” she said, sniffing at the air.
Bill pushed himself to his feet to look as well, seeing and smelling nothing but taking her word for it.
“How many? Might just be some of the ex-inmates making a break for home,” Bill asked, sliding to the driver’s seat and then dropping to the ground. He found his chainmail and armored up before strapping his sword to his back.
“Dunno. There’s jus two of em, and one’s definitely a man. Can’t mistake that smell, but the other one… It’s weird. I ain’t never smelled that before,” Rekka replied, hopping down to land in a crouch beside him, bouncing to her feet to look him over. “Yer swords on crooked,” she said, adjusting it for him.
“Thanks, babe. What’s the other one smell like?” Bill asked, strapping on his bracers, cursing as he pinched his wound under its lumpy bandages in his haste.
Rekka sniffed at the air again, her eyes closed in thought. Finally, she shook her head, snorting her frustration.
“It’s so weird! Like… Like a centaur, I guess? Only… real clean? No, more like… pure,” Rekka replied, unsure.
“Huh. Well shit, I bet a centaur would know how to get these horses moving. Let’s go conscript her to the cause,” Bill said.
“Well, if she is a centaur that ain’t going to be easy. They’re real touchy, always goin’ on about honor an’ stupid stuff like that,” Rekka said, “And they’re real quick to use them bows they all love so much, so watch out for that.”
“Well, damn. Getting real tired of arrows. Okay, well, we could just try asking but we’re in no position to let them say no. Hell, let’s try something with a little bit of… finesse,” Bill said, grinning evilly down at Rekka, who returned it with a wide happy one of her own.
“Anyone touches a bow and you’ll bleed your last, let me see them hands!” the outlaw ordered, a malicious leer on his face. If he had a mustache, he’d be twirling it evilly to complete the image. Instead, he slashed his sword through the air to punctuate his order.
Before Felix could respond he found himself holding a shaking Helena in his arms, robbing his faculties of anything resembling coherent thought.
“Oh Felix!” she cried, trembling. Her eyes were closed as she clutched at him, squeaking her terror. The stunned Felix merely held her, patting her back in an attempt to soothe her while he tried to sort out whether he should be afraid of their attacker, angry that he scared Helena so, or pleased at the soft lovely sensation of holding her in his arms.
“Ah, shit,” the rogue muttered, lowering his sword.
“That ain’t like no centaur I ever met, that’s for sure,” the other bandit said from behind, her tone full of wry amusement.
Felix made comforting noises to Helena, still rubbing her back. “It’s ok, Helena, my dear. Shh, now. Don’t cry. They won’t harm us,” he said until she opened her eyes and looked at him. He took a moment to smile comfortingly to her before nodding at the man who had accosted them, “You won’t hurt her, right, Bill?”
“Oh damn, Felix. What are you doing here? Figured you for dead,” Bill replied, lowering the sword to the dirt and leaning on it like a cane.
“Aye, I would be, without the aid of my savior, here,” Felix replied, still holding her closely. “We’re here because… we came to find you, Bill.”
“What, want another fight? I’m pretty sure Rekka can still take you, with or without your pretty filly,” Bill said, grinning over Felix’s shoulder at the hellhound.
Before Rekka could respond, Helena turned her head to look back at her, causing the hellhound to gasp in shock.
“Oh wow! That’s a horn! Husband, look… She’s a unicorn!” Rekka called, dashing up to the startled mamono. It was Felix’s turn to freeze in panic. The last time he had been this close to the hellhound she had snapped his spear in half and driven it into his leg before he could react.
“H-hello there, my name is Helena, how, um… nice to meet you,” Helena greeted her nervously, holding out a hand. Rekka eagerly grasped it in her paws shaking more vigorously than the unicorn was used to, but she gamely persevered.
“Likewise! Call me Rekka, that’s my husband, Bill. Don’t worry about him, he’s a real sweetie normally, he wasn’t going to hurt ya,” Rekka said, grinning at Helena, her eyes focused on the woman’s horn.
“Oh my, yes, I am sorry for the way I reacted, but he was convincing as a nefarious outlaw,” Helena said, blushing.
Looking over at Bill they paused to watch as he struggled to sheathe his sword. He was turning in circles while trying to get the blade and scabbard to line up on his back, cursing, until he finally slid it home with a laugh of victory.
“Damn thing’s more trouble than it’s worth I tell ya,” Bill declared, nodding at Helena, “Nice to meet you, Helena was it? Sorry about the ambush, thought you guys would be putting up more resistance to getting kidnapped. Nice to meet reasonable folks for a change.”
“Kidnapping-?” Helena started to ask, but was interrupted by Felix.
“What? That’s ridiculous, we’ve come looking for you of our own free will!” Felix exclaimed, putting himself between Bill and Helena.
“Great, it makes it a lot easier to abduct people when they’re on the same page,” Bill replied, patting Felix on the shoulder.
“Is he entirely serious?” Helena asked Rekka.
“Mm-hmm. I like yer horn, it’s so pretty!” Rekka replied, her eyes shining with interest.
“Ah, why thank you Rekka. Your eyes are very beautiful,” Helena responded with dazed politeness.
Bill patted Felix on the back and said, “C’mon Felix. Follow me back to the carriage, it’s just up the road. You can explain why you’ve come, and I can tell you why you’re here.”
After having roused Larry and Tabitha from their cozy little honeymoon suite, Bill gathered everyone around the carriage for a meeting of the minds.
“Larry, Tabitha, meet Felix and Helena,” Bill said, making introductions.
“Hey, I recognize you. You’re one of those guards, right? Didn’t see you last night,” Larry spoke up, leaning into Tabitha while she stood behind him, holding onto him protectively.
“Yeah, he wasn’t there. Felix and his friends ran into Rekka back in the forest where we met. Didn’t go well for them. Last we saw him he was limping away losing blood, didn’t give him much hope honestly. Guessing his recovery has something to do with Helena here,” Bill said, nodding at her.
“Unicorn, huh? Guess you must be a wiz with surgery. That was a hell of a wound,” he said, looking meaningfully at Felix’s leg.
Helena glanced nervously around as the party looked her over. While Larry and Bill didn’t seem to see her as anything but a novel new species of mamono, Rekka was nearly beside herself with curiosity. Even Tabitha seemed keenly interested, if her twitching tail and ears were any indication.
“Yeah! Isn’t it awesome? She can magic away wounds! Just like in the stories!” Rekka cried, bouncing on her feet. “Never thought I’d meet one! They’re so rare, I thought they was all gone.”
“Yes, I do not believe there are many of us left at all, now,” Helena said, sadly. “I only knew my mother and now she is… gone.”
Rekka’s excitement died and she crossed to the unicorn, pulling her into a comforting hug, which the girl gratefully returned.
“I’m sorry, Helena. This stupid war… it ain’t right,” Rekka said.
“Thank you, Rekka, but I cannot place the blame entirely on the fighting… My mother was not killed. You see, my father was not a strong man, and he was led astray. I believe that is the more likely cause for my kind’s disappearance.”
Rekka growled angrily, hugging her tighter for a moment before pulling away. She turned her ire onto Felix.
“If you hurt her, I’ll put another spear in you, an’ you’ll wish it was your leg!” she snarled at him, surprisingly Tabitha joined in with a growl of her own, her tail lashing the air.
Bill and Larry shared a look of confusion, both clueless to the sudden agitation centered on poor Felix.
“What? No! Of course, I’d never…” Felix said, holding his hands up, torn between backing away from the furious hellhound and staying close to Helena.
“Please do not! Rekka, I appreciate your concern but Felix has been nothing but a complete gentleman, I assure you. Please do not be cruel to him, I beg you!” Helena said, placing her hand in Felix’s while blushing furiously, her hooves stamping nervously.
Bill reached over and gathered the still glowering Rekka into his arms before she decided to do something painful to Felix again.
“Ok, that was weird. Anyone feel like clueing in us ignorant menfolk as to what that was all about?” Bill asked, stroking Rekka’s hair while looking at the mortified unicorn.
“It is not something I feel entirely comfortable… I cannot… Um, Rekka, you tell them, please,” Helena mumbled out, her eyes darting between Felix and the ground while she turned a brighter shade of red.
Rekka growled again, staring death at Felix for a moment before speaking, “Unicorns is special. Like, really special. There never was a lot, and now there’s a lot less. An’ that’s cause they don’t stay unicorns for long, these days.”
Felix nervously shuffled his feet while looking between Rekka and Helena.
“If their husbands a no-good cheater, or even if he’s too weak to stop another woman from takin’ him, their wife will change… They can’t help it. An’ they stop bein’ so, y’know,” Rekka explained, waving to indicate the innocently blushing unicorn.
Helena lowered her head, her hair hiding her face, leaving only her horn visible.
“They ain’t much different from a succubus then, just with four legs. They can’t heal anymore; their magic gets all… succubussy! Spend all their time tryin’ to get their husband to cheat more, an’ even take on more wives!” She exclaimed, affronted at the idea.
“Worst of all, they don’t have that pretty horn anymore. They get two! An’ that’s not special. Lot’s of mamono got two horns. An’ if they choose a husband that ain’t a virgin, it happens anyway! It’s terrible,” she finished, still glaring daggers at Felix. The fires in her eyes were blazing now.
“Huh, so… bicorns? Shit, sounds like a fairytale,” Bill commented.
“Yeah, that’s who told me about em,” Rekka said, crossing her arms.
Larry barked out a laugh. “Oh shit, fairy tale, literally. This fuckin’ place.” He shook his head, picking up Tabitha’s waving tail and stroking it absently.
“Is that how it works, Helena?” Bill asked gently, not trusting second hand pixie yarns.
“Um, yes, Rekka is very, um, well informed,” Helena stuttered out, still looking at the ground.
“Well damn. You a virgin, Felix?” Bill asked, looking at Felix.
“Uh…” Felix stammered, his face burning.
“Yeah, he is.” Bill stated, nodding. “Well, just keep it in your pants if you’re not serious about the long term, otherwise I won’t be responsible for what Rekka will do to you.”
Bill paused a moment to look over Helena’s horse parts speculatively before adding, “Although, I’m not sure how the mechanics would even work…”
Rekka smacked his chest to shut him up, and pulled his head down to whisper furiously in his ear, causing his eyes to widen in surprise. He glanced down at Helena’s skirt covered forelegs, squinting and noticing how she looked pretty much like a normal woman from that angle, aside from the delicate cloven feet.
“I’ll be damned, really?” He asked Rekka, holding up a couple fingers.
“Yes! Now leave it!” She hissed, glaring between a dumbfounded Bill, and Larry who was shaking with silent laughter.
“Right, sure. Moving on, I guess. Felix!” Bill said, snapping his fingers to get the poor man’s attention.
“Aye, yes? What?” Felix responded, patting at Helena’s hand in an attempt to comfort the poor blushing creature, not at all certain what the whispering had been about.
“So, how about it, why did you come looking for us? Not that I’m unhappy to see you, but if you’re here to avenge Flavius you’d better rethink it,” Bill said, cocking an eyebrow at the former enemy.
“No! Nothing of the sort, believe me,” Felix said, eyes flashing to the hellhound still staring him down. “We met Cato, he told us that you had a plan. To… Erm. Save the world?”
Bill chuckled, shrugging a shoulder.
“Yeah, I did say that, didn’t I? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got some ideas. I wouldn’t call it a plan, though,” Bill admitted, ignoring Rekka’s eye rolling.
“Well, if you want in, you’re more than welcome. See, here’s the deal: Me’n Larry here? We’re from a completely different world. I don’t know if you can even understand this, being an uneducated peasant or whatever. Serf maybe? Doesn’t matter. Not your fault you and all your medieval buddies are a bunch of ignorant savages,” Bill explained, leaning against the carriage, arms around Rekka who turned to snuggle into his chest, now bored of the conversation.
Felix and Helena shared a look of confusion, while Tabitha seemed to be taking an interest based upon her focused gaze and attentive ears.
“Now, our world doesn’t have magic, or mamono. It’s all humans, and there’s billions of us. What we do have is technology; flying machines, thinking machines, planes, trains, and automobiles. Cool science shit, and a whole lot of weapons. Stuff that makes Larry’s guns look like tinker toys. Other than some quality of life stuff, the place sucks, honestly,” Bill continued.
“Hey, I liked it just fine. I miss cold beer and netflix. This place is bullshit,” Larry snapped. Then he looked up at Tabitha, his scowl fading. “Well, mostly. Tabby is pretty great, I’ll admit.”
Tabitha began purring loudly at that, pulling Larry into her body, her face lighting up as she smiled down at him.
“Shit, I thought you were smart. This place is fucking awesome; magic, adventure, sexy hellhounds? I ain’t ever leaving,” Bill countered, rubbing a now giggling Rekka’s back.
“That’s the thing, though. Magic. This place has it, and it can do crazy shit. Like bring us here. If it can do that, it can do more. Now, I never met whoever brought me here, but it sounds like you did, Larry.”
“Fuck yeah I did. Fat Gandalf looking asshole,” Larry spat. He told them of how he had gotten pulled out of his comfortable life and brought to this world.
“He’s not going to send us back unless we beat a portal out of him,” Larry scowled, remembering.
“Hell, he tries to send me back, I’ll feed him his magic wand and his teeth,” Bill replied. “Nah, we’ll need us a wizard, but not for returning.”
Larry seemed to want to argue that point, then looked down at the two paws holding onto his chest. A thoughtful look passed over his face, and he sighed, running his fingers through the fur on Tabitha’s paws.
“We’re a long way from worrying about that, though. For now, we need to deal with you opening Pandora’s ammo box. The next step is shutting down the quarry,” Bill said, nodding at Felix. “What can you tell me about the place, Felix?”
“The quarry? Why there?” Felix asked, confused.
“You remember Larry’s ‘weapons’, right? Well, those are from our world. You yokels would probably never have discovered them without him showing up and doing the thinking for you. Don’t take it too hard, you guys can’t help being such backward rubes. They’re making his gunpowder at the quarry, so we’ll have to go fix that,” Bill explained, enjoying the irritation Felix was showing from his taunts.
“Must you be so… so… rude, Bill?” Helena interjected. She was attempting a stern expression, her cheeks puffing out and stamping her hooves. It was adorable, like being growled at by a hamster.
Bill chuckled, shaking his head.
“No, sorry Helena, I’ll try to be nice. Don’t take it personally, Felix. I’m kind of an asshole. I’ve been told I use humor as a defense, but honestly, it’s more of an offensive weapon lately. I’m still a little mad that you guys nearly killed me. That bolt is still bothering me,” Bill replied, waving his wounded arm at Felix.
“Are you injured? Please, let me see,” Helena said, moving forward.
Bill obediently offered his arm after removing the bracer. Helena carefully unwrapped his bandages, making a concerned noise when the angry red wound was revealed.
“This is very recent. You should have been resting, it would be healing better had you not been swinging swords at innocent travelers, sir,” she chastised him.
“Didn’t have much choice. Career in adventure doesn’t come with sick leave,” Bill drawled, feeling a little queasy staring at the puckered hole in his arm.
“Hmm. It is slightly infected, you are a little feverish,” Helena said, closing her eyes for a moment. “The bone is chipped, but it would have healed on its own, given time. The damaged muscles would take a time to repair on its own. May I heal you, Bill?”
“Oh, sure. Have at it. Should I sit down?” Bill asked, intrigued by the thought of magical healing.
“That should not be necessary, you did an excellent job in removing the arrow, and the wound is a simple one. Felix’s was far more extensive, and was not properly cared for,” Helena replied, mild accusation in her tone.
“Ah, sorry about that. What I don’t know about first aid could fill a book,” Bill replied, shrugging apologetically.
“Well, no lasting harm done. Please hold still, this will not hurt,” Helena said.
Helena bowed her head over Bill’s arm as the group watched with interest. Whispering softly in a musical language Helena held her hand over the wound. Her horn began shining brightly, and Bill shivered as a pleasant warmth diffused through his arm and into his chest. Helena finished her song, removing her hand to reveal unmarred skin, no trace of a scar.
“Wow, that’s amazin’! It’s like it didn’t even happen!” Rekka cried, surprising Helena by throwing her arms around her with a hug of thanks.
Bill was thrilled to no longer feel the deep ache in his arm he had been trying to ignore. He tried to flex his hand into a fist, but found the muscles not listening to him. He waved his arm around, trying to will some movement into it.
“Oh, do not worry, it will recover in a short time,” Helena said over Rekka’s shoulder.
“Cool, thanks Helena. Didn’t realize how much it hurt until it stopped,” Bill replied, his fingers beginning to respond again.
“Yeah, you’re the best, Helena! An’ don’t you worry about Felix, if any other girl looks his way I’ll make em sorry,” Rekka cheered, pleased as could be to have Bill healed, and wanting to return the favor best she knew how.
“Oh, why thank you, Rekka. If you guard him as well as you do Bill, I’m sure he will be very safe,” Helena replied, touched by her concern despite the bloodthirsty promise.
“Well hell, you’re a damned asset to the team, Helena. Glad to have you along. Felix can stick around as long as you’re vouching for him. Now, would you mind talking to these horses and getting them to move? They won’t listen to me,” Bill said, glaring at the horses.
“Is that why you wanted to kidnap us?” Felix asked, aghast.
“Yeah, figured her for a centaur at first. They’re, y’know, part horse. Should be able to work something out,” Bill replied, shrugging.
Felix’s mouth opened and closed as he tried formulate a response. He was saved as Helena placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, a shy smile on her face she tried to cover with her hand.
“Do not worry Felix. Bill is not entirely wrong. I cannot speak for centaurs, but my people do share a certain affinity with equines. Let me try, they do not seem distressed,” Helena said, approaching the horses.
She spent a few minutes talking quietly at the horses, patting their heads and smoothing their manes. The horses were quite pleased by the attention, perking up and whickering at her in greeting. After a moment Helena turned back towards Bill.
“They seem to be waiting for you to allow them to continue on, Bill. They are quite bored with standing still for so long,” Helena said.
“What? I’ve been trying to get them moving all day. Is there a ‘go’ command or something I’m not aware of? Last night I just had to flick the reins,” Bill said, exasperated.
Felix marched over to the carriage, around the horses and to the far side. He looked down beside the driver’s bench and said, “Have you tried releasing the break?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Bill shouted.
Larry broke down laughing, thoroughly enjoying Bill’s anguish.