Sorry for the long wait! I forgot to schedule more chapter releases, and got busy in my day to day. This is a continuation of my novel!, which can be purchased here, if you like what I do and want to support me. Or if you just can’t wait for the updates. Now without further delay, here are the next 4 chapters of Heaven’s Gold Spear.
A slurry of snow fell from the heavens in a blinding fury, the cold seemed more than just physical. It was a horrid thing, cutting deep into her soul. Annabelle was bundled up, warmly, but all that seemed to do was cause her to sweat, which would then freeze, which would just make her colder. Her wings clung to her for warmth.
Her companions were bundled up tight as well, in thick white furs and padded wool coats. But Annabelle could tell by the way they shivered that they weren’t doing much better. Alexandra and Calypso, the chimera and basilisk from Delilah’s forces. The tall tanned angel didn’t see the use in bringing them, her mission was not one where companions would be useful. But she did not question Lakshmi’s orders.
“T-this i-is s-stupid! I thought w-we’d be f-fighting!” Alexandra the chimera shivered, despite her hefty clothes. “I-If I knew we w-were just g-going to w-walk around in the f-fucking snow I-I-I-I”
“Oh Shut up! You’re not the only one who’s cold! At least you aren’t a lamia! You think you have it bad?!”
“I thought you were a basilisk?” Annabelle remarked coolly.
The two stopped their bickering and looked at her in stunned silence. Or, well, Alexandra did. Calypso still wore that strange mask over her eyes. But she seemed to be looking at her.
“I didn’t know you could talk!” Alexandra exclaimed in shock.
“Yes. I can speak. When I feel like it.”
Annabelle turned back towards their destination and began walking once more.
Calypso answered her question as she slithered across the snow to her side.
“Actually, basilisks are a type of lamia, kind of like how a cupid like you is a part of the angel family.”
Annabelle nodded, but otherwise remained silent. Calypso and Alexandra continued trying to talk to her but she only gave curt replies. She wasn’t much of a conversationalist. Eventually they went back to talking to each other. She felt guilty slightly, but she just didn’t like to talk.
As Annabelle trod through the snow, the blizzard lessened, but the biting cold seemed even worse. Calypso and Alexandra had stopped speaking, and instead chose to shiver in their clothes in silence. As they came over a large hill, Annabelle stopped her march and held her white beret close as a freezing wind came blowing past. Alexandra and Calypso nearly buckled, But Annabelle held firm.
Below her, over the hill was a great drop-off. A sheer cliff that fell into a frozen valley several hundred feet below. In the center was a tall magnificent palace that seemed to be made of crystal. But its ornate structure did not shine and glimmer, dark clouds overhead cut off the sun, and so it looked only like a tall white monolithic building devoid of life and happiness. It was a palace true, but a palace of only sorrow. The home of a powerful local Ice Queen.
“F-finally w-we’re here!” Alexandra said as she came up behind Annabelle. “So what do y-you want us to d-do? L-lady Delilah wanted us to help, b-but-“
“You and Calypso should fly down to the valley, get her attention. When the time is right, I will strike.”
“Um…I can’t fly though-” Calypso was cut off as Alexandra scooped her up into her hands. Her rich red tail trailed off onto the ground, white plumage and all, but Alexandra hardly seemed winded as she spread her wings wide.
“Don’t worry, T-that won’t b-be a pro-pro-GODDESS IT”S COLD!” Alexandra shivered and nearly dropped Calypso, causing the frightened basilisk to dig her claws into Alexandra’s scaly hide and fluffy fur. Alexandra nearly let out a yell until Annabelle wrapped a gloved hand around her mouth.
“Please be quiet until you’re down there. When you land, you’ll have to fight off her glacies guards. They shouldn’t be a problem for you two, but you’ll be outnumbered. Either draw her out of the palace, or go inside. Either way is fine. I just need you to distract her. OK?”
“Well then,” She flapped her wings. “Here I go!”
The chimera took off in a swirl of snow into the air, the long snake-like body of Calypso trailing after. Annabelle hoped they’d be okay. She was beginning to like them.
Alexandra landed gently on the snow, unscathed. The winds were not so fierce here, but they were still chilling. She laid Calypso down gently, even if she deserved to be plopped into the snow like the troublesome bother she was. She could feel Alexis and Alexa push on her mind for control, but she pushed back. She was the best at straight combat. Alexis was for sneaking and planning, and Alexa was for diplomacy. Alex was the only one who could fight as well as her, and she was just being her lazy self.
Alexandra shot a gaze towards the palace as she sensed movement. She couldn’t smell anything, but she could see something or somethings, zipping towards her and Calypso fast. She brought her lion’s paw up and extending her claws, her dragon’s claws were up and waiting too. Her tail hissed, its snake like end ready to bite. She smiled, it had been too long since she’d had a good fight.
The soldiers came into view as they dashed passed her in rapid movement, kicking up snow in a blinding white fury. Glacies were monsters formed of living ice, they had the basic shape of waifish women, gentle curves and harsh faces. They glimmered and glinted, their bodies an ethereal beauty. They stared hard at Alexandra, assessing her level of threat. They didn’t walk, or run, they glided. Their legs ended in pointed shards, floating over the ice and snow as they circled the basilisk and chimera. Alexandra lost count after thirty. Calypso wrapped her tail close for warmth.
“I don’t like this, Alexandra… I don’t like it at all.”
The glacies’ ceased circling the two as one of them floated gently forward. The two were surrounded. The one who came forward spoke in a calm almost bored voice.
“The Lady Aurora is not seeing visitors. Leave now, or perish.”
“Or, I could kick all of your assess! What d’ya think about that, princess?!” Alexandra barked.
Calypso didn’t say anything, but she moved her hands to the back of her head, by her mask’s ribbons that held it on her head. The glacies narrowed her icy blue eyes and extended her arms to her sides.
“Her Highness, Lady of the Ice and Snow, Aurora Winter, has graciously extended a warning to you. Am I to assume you are ignoring it?”
“You could say that.”
The words had no sooner left Alexandra’s lips when the glacies flew across the frozen snow, her arm extended and formed into the shape of a blade. Alexandra jumped high in to the air, avoiding the attack. But she had to move quickly, as a sharp spire of ice shot up after her. Alexandra beat her wings, flying through the air, avoiding spire after spire, and flying blades of ice. Glacies were ice elementals with an ability to manipulate the cold much like their Ice Queen.
Calypso, in contrast to how sluggish she had been, dodged and weaved through the many assailants that skated towards her. She let her mask fall to the ground, and as ten of the glacies came towards her rapidly, she opened her snake-like green eyes.
All at once they fell to the ground, defeated by the mere gaze of the basilisk.
“Hah! Ten for me!”
“It doesn’t count!” screamed Alexandra, as she dodged another ice shard flying past. “Your eyes are cheating!”
Calypso looked upon her handiwork with a small smile on her face. She blushed as she enjoyed her handiwork. The glacies were flushed, their cheeks pink with arousal. In the old days, a basilisk’s gaze would cause instant death. But in the current era, her gaze did something a little… different. Calypso grabbed the face of one of the glacies and forced her to look up. Her eyes were closed tight, her hands trembling as she tried not to give in to the temptations racking her body.
“Do you like that, sweetheart? It’s a special psychic venom, and it only gets stronger with time. That icy body of yours is going to be heating up very soon~.”
Calypso rapidly slithered across the snow dodging an ice-made spear behind her, and looked at her would-be attacker. Three more glacies fell to the ground the instant her gaze lingered upon them.
“Nice try, getting me while I’m distracted. But you’ll find winning against the likes of me quite impossible! My psychic venom relaxes every muscle in the body, and induces in monsters a sort of… heat. It takes what the Overlord has already put inside you and brings it to the surface! Twisting your own mana against you, and ultimately swelling your lust beyond anything you’ve ever imagined! Sadly-“
Calypso weaved past a dozen frozen blades flying through the air.
“Let me finish! Sadly the only way to stop it is to have all your mana replaced! Because it converts newly created mana into more venom! You can only do that by guess what?!”
“Stop explaining your abilities and fight! Geez! They aren’t even listening anyway!” Alexandra barked as she swooped down and knocked down over a dozen of the soldiers as she flew past.
Calypso was getting agitated.
“I like to monologue okay?! If I don’t it gets really boring! I just look people in the eye and they fall over masturbating! Let me have this!”
Alexandra shook her head, tussling her snow covered blonde hair. Being a basilisk was suffering apparently. She felt a fire come up from her lungs as she let out a torrent of flame towards the fast moving glacies dodging her dives. But she was more versatile than that. As one especially clever soldier twisted quickly to attack her in the back. She opened her snake-tail’s mouth and hit the clever soldier full-force with another torrent of flame.
It was a short battle, but the glacies were all on the ground either unconscious or pleasuring themselves, trying to quell the burning lust within. Alexandra landed close to Calypso, making sure to avoid her eyes. From the Ice Palace Alexandra could see a retinue of more glacies, these still slim and frail looking, but their faces seemed hardened. There were maybe fifty of them. In the midst of them, was a large ornate Palanquin, painted a pale blue and trimmed with silver. three sides were wooden, but the side facing the battlefield was thick blue curtain. Alexandra felt Alexis stir, wanting to take over. She pushed back. The snake could come out later. The fighting wasn’t done just yet.
As the Palanquin came closer, Alexandra began to freeze again, her teeth chattering. Calypso was doing the same. She had her head buried in her coat, as she shivered.
Alexandra barely had time to react as an arrow flew at her. It missed her by inches as she took to the sky. She howled as two of the icy arrows struck, lodged inside her left wing. She looked down, to find the new regiment in front of the palanquin were all wielding longbows, and were aiming at her. She grimaced, not liking the change in strategy. She whipped through the air in lightning speed, dodging arrow after arrow. She had no time to think or plan, only enough time to make it difficult for them to hit her. She felt it again, Alexis wanting to take hold. Frustrated, she relinquished, the time for brute strength was over.
Alexis snapped her eyes wide and flew high. She was out of range of the arrows now, and had some time to think. The Ice Queen was obviously in the palanquin. And these were her soldiers, her real soldiers, not guards. An idea occurred to her. She folded her draconic wings close and dove.
As she came back in range, she found they’d changed their strategy. They were no longer firing at will.
A wall of deadly arrows came at her fast, closing in. They were tightly cloistered, and there was no way to dodge them. Alexis thought fast, and spread open her wings.
As she slowed, she thrust both hands out in front of her and whipped out her tail, opening its serpentine maw. All at once she let out a cascade of fire from her clawed hand, lion’s paw, and serpentine tail. She let out one final stream of flame from her own maw to join the other three.
As a chimera, Alexandra/Alexa/Alexis/Alex was an amalgam of four magical-beasts, and though her fire was not as potent as a true dragons, she had a far larger area of effect to exploit. The icy arrows melted before they made contact, and after a few seconds Alexis continued her dive.
She saw that the palanquin had been placed on the ground, and the glacies were switching weapons. It seemed her display had made them consider bows and arrows obsolete. She scanned over the snowy plains and caught sight of a long tightly-wrapped bundle of clothes. With a quick grin, she flew in close.
Calypso wondered what had caused the arrows to stop flying. Had it been Alexandra’s display? She had felt the heat from even down here. It even took away the cold for a brief time. She looked up towards the enemy line to see what was going on, but as soon as she did, she was lifted up into the air. After her initial panic attack, she realized it was Alexandra, and calmed down just a little.
“So what’s the plan? Retreat?”
“That’sssss Not an option Calypssssso.”
“Oh! Alexis! Nice to see you again. Well, kind of. You know what I mean.”
“Yesss, I know what you mean. Lisssssten, how far can your gazzzze be and ssstill work?”
“Pretty far. Up to… 500 meters, I think.”
“Then why wassssn’t it working jussst now?”
“They must not be looking into my eyes. You have to look into my eyes for it to work. That’s why I wear my mask and why I’m trying not to look at you. I can’t turn it on and off. But…”
“I can also spread it as an actual toxin, a venomous cloud. But it’s pretty short range. 10 meters at most.”
“Then you bessst hold on.”
Calypso made to argue, but didn’t have much choice. With one large beat of her draconic wings, Alexis shot forward at incredible speed towards the enemy. Calypso held onto Alexis arms desperately, trying to keep from reflexively wrapping her tail around Alexis. Knowing if she did so, she’d mess up Alexis’ wings just enough that they would plummet to their death. As they shot forth faster and faster, Calypso caught the eyes of a few unwary glacies soldiers. They instantly fell over, their faces pink, and their hands wandering.
But several were able to look away, and they formed large pikes out of the snow below them and readied themselves for the charge.
“On my mark Calypssso! Hit them with everything you’ve got!”
They were getting really close to the pike-women now, and Calypso was getting nervous. They banked to the left just as they reached the line, out of reach of the jagged ice.
Calypso’s cheeks swelled for a moment before she let out a green mist, trailing behind her as Alexis flew above the glacies soldiers. They fell almost immediately, limp and moaning. The troops were in panic, not expecting this type of attack. One by one they fell as more scattered, fleeing the green mist. But none escaped, and soon not a single soldier was left standing.
Alexis and Calypso landed softly onto the snow, the chimera careful not to look Calypso in the eyes. The mist didn’t linger long in the air, swept away by the wind. The two friends stood waiting, eyeing the palanquin. Moments passed, and the two began to shiver again, the excitement that had warmed them gone.
Suddenly, a powerful burst of air blasted pass the curtain in the palanquin and hit Calypso square in the face. Before she could yell out her head was incased in crystal ice.
A second burst of frozen air escaped the Palanquin, just as fast as the last, and hit Calypso in the chest. Frost spread its white tendrils about Calypso quickly and before anything could be done, she was encased in solid ice.
From the curtain, a shadow began to stir.
Alexis crouched low, ready to move. Her hooves dug into the snow. She snarled, and quietly hoped that one of the others were ready to take over. But it seemed they were content to let her figure out things alone.
The curtains parted as a large woman came forth, with pale blue skin and silken cerulean hair. She was seven feet tall at least, but was as graceful as a woman half her size. Upon her brow was a jagged crystal crown sparkling with a rainbow of colors. Her dress was low cut despite the cold, as if she were immune to such things. It seemed to be a royal blue velvet, studded with diamonds and cuffed with large sparkling crystal. The dress was worn loose, Her cleavage on display, and a good portion of her legs. She wore simple blue slippers on her feet, adorned with crystal. In her right hand she held a polished wooden staff painted blue, atop it was a large crystal snowflake, and on the bottom was a sharpened diamond cap.
She glared at Alexis calmly, without much expression on her face.
“Why do you trespass on my land? You have not harmed my subjects, so for that I thank you. Even your fire was magical in nature. But you did seek a fight, and for that I must condemn you. Speak, and perhaps I shall show mercy.”
“Ssso, you’re the Iccce Queen?”
“Is that your answer? Mere curiosity? You wished to see my form?”
“Sssomething like that.”
“A pity. You had piqued my curiosity. The Overlord has forbidden my kind from ending the lives of humans, but you aren’t human are you?”
Alexis brought up her clawed draconic hand up into a fighting stance, her lion’s paw extended its claws. Despite the cold, she felt a bead of sweat on her brow. she had little warning as another burst of frozen air escaped the Ice Queen’s staff.
She rolled to the side as the cold swept passed her, and where she once stood a frozen jagged stream of ice crystal formed in a wall several meters long, and nearly a foot thick. Her mismatched eyes widened at such a powerful attack coming from such a lazy gesture. The Ice Queen gave a gentle sigh before she gave a flick of her wrist, and another blast of cold air shot forth.
Alexis jumped up out of reach, or so she thought. The wing was brushed by a sliver of the blast, and instantly began to freeze. She fell into the snow before she had any chance to recover. She didn’t hesitate to get back to her feet, but no sooner had she done so when Aurora leveled her staff forward, another blast of frost magic rocketing forth.
Alexis let loose a torrent of flame from her maw, and hit the Ice Queen’s icy-blue magic head on. It did naught but slow it. As the frost slowly overtook her flame she added her hand’s magical flames to the fire. The Ice Queen was pushed back ever so slightly. She added her serpent’s stream to her fire.
It was still not enough.
With a mighty shout, the Ice Queen sent forth a pulse of white light and overcame Alexis’ fire completely, extinguishing it and knocking her off her feet. She landed with a heavy thud, gasping and out of breath. Before she could sit up, a blue slipper pressed on her chest, driving her deeper into the snow. The Ice Queen stood over her, crystal blue eyes meeting mismatched green and blue.
“You come to my home, attack my subjects, and dare to challenge me. Such insolence has only one outcome.”
Alexis’ mismatched eyes went wide, time seemed to slow, and the Ice Queen’s hand began to glow with lethal blue light. The Ice Queen spoke in a detached uncaring tone.
Alexis closed her eyes as she awaited the inevitable.
But the inevitable didn’t come. As the chimera opened her eyes, she found the Matriarch of the Cold grasping at her breast, a black arrow plunged deep inside her heart. A ruffle of feathers sounded the gentle landing of Annabelle, who dropped gently onto the snow behind Alexis, facing the giant Queen. Aurora grasped the arrow only to have it melt away into black smoke, and plunge deep inside her. She convulsed, and then began to shiver.
“W-what have you done to me?” the Ice Queen said, falling to her knees.
“I’ve plunged a very special arrow deep into your heart. A cupid’s lead arrow. Even now, its magic is expelling every bit of love from your heart, little as that was.”
Alexis scrambled away, behind the cupid and gathering up poor Calypso. As she spared a glance at the Ice Queen she felt a swell of pity. The once stone-hearted demeanor of the self proclaimed royalty melted away quickly. Tears welled up in her eyes and she began to cry. Even as she did so, she seemed shocked that she could produce tears. Her hands wiped them away as quickly as they came. She did not last long on her knees, and instead fell ever more downward, face-first in the snow with body-wracking sobs. As she seemed to lose her composure, Calypso began to stir.
The chimera held on to her friend tightly, trying to speed up the process. They were hardy, powerful monsters, and being frozen once or twice wasn’t going to do them in.
“W-what is this feeling? T-this horrid feeling in my chest?” Aurora, the Ice Queen spoke softly, and with great effort.
Annabelle spoke calmly, unmoved by the sight before her.
“It’s loneliness. Your mana is strong, so strong it affected not just you but all your subjects. Your heart was frozen, but now, it’s free to feel, and to hurt.”
From behind the Ice Queen, several of her glacies came forward, clutching their breasts in much the same way. Alexis noticed that many of them were victims of Calypso’s psychic venom. It seemed Annabelle’s arrows were able to stymie the effects, or override them.
“If you want to cease feeling as you do, there is a city a few miles down the mountain of your Winter home. Go there, and find someone to love.”
The Queen looked shaken, but as she comprehended the words that came out of Annabelle’s mouth she stood on shaky knees and gestured to the glacies stumbling forward.
“My subjects, I can feel, a… sorrow, budding within me. And I know you feel it too. I feel like I should hate our attackers for what they have done here, but I have no malice in my heart. I have nothing but longing. Longing for what I have seen, but never experienced. Longing for the love between man and woman, a love I have spurned, and ignored for many many years. We will go to Vasherton as the angel said. So says, I, Aurora Winter, Lady of the Ice and Snow.”
The glacies nodded their heads and slowly began to trudge away to the distant city.
“Ssso that’sss it? It’sss that easssy?” Alexis said, bewildered by the sudden change in the Ice Queen’s demeanor and speech.
“Well, it affects people differently, I suppose.” Annabelle shrugged. “But I’m as surprised as you. She must just naturally be a person who changes her mind quickly.”
Aurora, the Ice Queen glanced at them then, her eyes still cold despite the tears. The two became nervous, believing they may have spoken too soon. She waved a hand, and suddenly, Calypso thawed, and fell into a heap sputtering and coughing and shivering.
“You are a strange bunch,” Aurora spoke monotonously, with her tone flat and seemingly uninterested. ” Who are you three? And whose plan was this? You would risk your lives to move me closer to Vasherton?”
Calypso spoke as she re-adorned her mask, shivering slightly and shaking off some of the frost that had remained.
“It was my idea, on orders of Lady Delilah of the 78th Division of the Overlord’s army.”
“Had you but waited a few scant months, I would have moved of my own accord.”
“I apologize, but we just didn’t have the time.”
“I will seek revenge upon you in due time. I dislike cloak and dagger affairs, though I admit, I would not have done your bidding had you asked. Farewell then, you three. Despair our next meeting. I shall quell this… pain first and then I shall have my vengeance for this humiliation.”
With that, the Ice Queen turned her back on the three and began following her subjects, gracefully striding atop the snow despite her size. Annabelle looked at Alexis, and Calypso looked at them through her mask. Unbidden, they began to laugh.
Alexis giggled as she fell back into the snow, exhausted.
“Well, ssshe seemed nice. I wonder what lucky guy isss going to get that ball of sssunshine?”
David’s nose itched rather horribly. Unfortunately, he could do nothing about it. He had been strapped down onto a curious wooden table in a dark cell. It was just under the streets leading to the castle. The table had a halo-like impression around his head, with two small trenches carved on either side of it, running off on either side of the table. He could see the light from the street filter down from the bars that were set in the window above and behind his head. It was a small window, and set down at the people’s feet, where they likely wouldn’t see. He could hear all the shuffling and goings on of the outside world.
The men who had strapped him to the table had said this was “the best suite at the inn” all the while laughing. He imagined they were right, even if they were only joking. The cell had light, it didn’t smell of piss (thank the gods) and he had only seen two rats. That was as good as a prison cell usually got, in his general experience. Though he wasn’t usually on the inside. He gave a heavy sigh as he remembered better days. Days when he wasn’t quite a hero… but when he got to pretend at least.
Days he wasn’t branded a traitor, alone, separated from his friends, and waiting to be tortured.
Devon would have figured something out by now. Or at least figured out how to scratch his nose. David was brought out of his musings when the iron door to his cell opened. What entered did not stir him to confidence.
A short plump man, with a mop of greasy hair and puffy eyes entered the room. He cared with him three large buckets. One of which was filled with water, a rag over the side. David’s first thought was that he was there to clean something. But of course, no one cleaned a dungeon. That was part of the horror you inflicted onto its inhabitants.
“Hello?” David said, a tinge of nervousness in his voice.
The man only smiled and shambled silently inside, placing the two empty buckets under each side of the table David was strapped down on. David didn’t bother speaking. Though he wasn’t sure he could if he tried. Despite all his adventures, and blunders, he’d never been tortured. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t somewhat fearful. Angry too, at how quick Silas turned on him.
Even as the thought of Silas entered his mind, David heard his voice from down the hall.
“-dn’t be here. Your father wouldn’t approve.”
“My father is on his death bed. He has more important matters to worry about.”
Silas entered the doorway with a tall handsome man in tow, blonde haired and green-eyed with high cheek bones.
“If your father knew you were here he’d have my ears!”
“Then don’t tell him.”
“Hello Silas,” David said, interrupting their feud. “Mighty quick to turn on a man, aren’t you?”
“I could say the same.” the old elf retorted.
“And who is your guest that’s come to watch me suffer?”
“A boy who fancies himself a man.”
“I am twenty-five!” the man said, offended.
They argued a bit more then, but David’s attention was brought to the portly man by his side who had begun to hum unbeknownst to the other two. He took a rag out of his bucket filled with water and rung it out, placing it by David’s head. He then took out a large tin cup from another bucket. Confused, but still uneasy, David turned his attention to the crochety old elf.
“You know, I had volunteered to go fetch your other trinkets. I still might, for a reduced cost even, if you let me go.”
The handsome man, ceased his chatter, and turned to Silas with wide eyes.
“You told him?!”
“Of course not. I mentioned we still had artifacts to collect, that was it. And I don’t think so, David. Not with your track record of giving them over to humanity’s sworn enemy.”
“One: I didn’t do that. And two: Why do you care, you’re an elf aren’t you?”
“If humanity falls, we all fall. And we’ll see what you did soon enough.”
David once again looked at the portly man with greasy hair. He had suspected this was the torturer. No one looks that chipper in a dungeon. Even in its best cell. Silas chuckled a bit, and it was genuinely unnerving. As if he was about to enjoy what was to come as much as the torturer. The blonde man kept his mouth shut tersely, but his eyes spoke of sympathy.
“Why David, don’t tell me you’ve never been tortured? All those adventures, and you were never caught by an enemy?”
“Being a man who could summon icy death upon his foes until relatively recently…no. I can’t say I was captured all that much. So tell me, Is the reason you aren’t using magic to read my mind a sign you just like torturing people, or a sign you fear engaging me in a battle of wills?”
“I’m no Psion, I have no mental magic to perform. And relax. I don’t blame you too much. You’re just a man. A man with the same weakness as every man, women. No permanent damage will be done.”
“Now just wait one minute!” the blonde man spoke up then, looking a bit agitated.
“Look, David is it? Why don’t you just tell us what you know and skip this altogether? There’s no need to torture you if you just tell us what you did with the blade.”
David ran his eyes up and down the man. He wore a fine blue doublet slashed with red, silver vines decorating his over-coat. He wore trousers of a rich black material and boots of the finest leather. This man was important, that much was clear. But who he was… that was less so.
“And who might you be?” David asked.
“I am Lord Vasher, junior.”
David’s eyes widened. The man was very important! David shifted his eyes to Silas, who seemed to be watching with a disapproving gaze, but made no move to stop the conversation.
“If you promise not to hurt anyone-“
“I can’t make that promise.”
David felt like he might say that. But even so, he didn’t like it. Silas gave a harrumph and strode forward.
“Alright then, you tried. Now we get on with it. First question, then. If you answer, then we don’t have to do anything. If not, well, you know.”
“If you promise not to hurt anyone I mention, I can tell you what I know. Otherwise, forget it.”
Silas gestured to the man with greasy hair, who let out a squeal. He placed the rag over David’s face and tightened the straps.
“We’ll see how you feel about that in a few moments.”
David kept quiet, nervous. Suddenly he felt water being poured over his head. He sputtered a bit, but it was over quickly. The rag was damp, and it was a bit clingy as he breathed. He nearly spoke, to ask if that was it, but when he did, water was poured over his face again as he tried to speak. He closed his mouth and just began breathing out his nose. But that became more difficult as more water was poured over his head and the cloth stuck to his nostrils. At first he tried holding his breath as they poured more water over his head, but they had built a rhythm, and the water kept flowing. Eventually he tried to take a breath and got hit with a mouthful of water. He sputtered and choked as he dislodged the water in his lungs.
But they didn’t let up. Even as he was choking, another long stream of water poured over his head and he nearly gagged as he took in another breath full of water. And they continued to do so. David began to panic, pulling at his binds, but he couldn’t break free. More water poured over his head and his choking and coughing fits became more severe. He was out of breath and he felt like needles were sticking in his lungs. His eyes watered and his body wracked with pain. More water was poured over him, over and over, he tried to speak, to tell them to stop, but nothing worked. He couldn’t breathe!
Suddenly, the rag was removed, and he was blinded by the light streaming down from the small window behind him. He looked bleary eyed as he sputtered and finally expelled the water from his lungs. His eyes wandered to the three men standing over him, each with a curious expression on their face. The torturer as usual, was smiling. Silas, as usual, was grim-faced. And Vasher junior was… frightened? David couldn’t make sense of it. He closed his eyes and took the moment to rest. But he did not have a moment. Silas gave the order
But the torturer did no such thing. Instead he put the rag over David’s face once more, and with a strange cranking sound, lowered the half of the table that held David’s head. Once more water flowed over his face, but this time it went freely up his nostrils with nary a hardship. The water clung the rag to his face tightly, like a great smothering paw. His body racked and shook, and he made to speak something before the water was poured once more over him. In no time at all, his body became slack and Silas ordered the torturer to stop. He did so, and pressed lightly on David’s chest while bringing the table back to a level stance.
David came to consciousness quickly, his face flush and his hair clinging to his face looking very much like a man nearly drowned at sea. He looked at Silas with wide eyes, a hint of fear where before there had been defiance.
“Now then. Tell me what happened that night I told you not to go in the woods.”
David opened his mouth, ready to speak. Not wanting to go back under. But the thought of Ophelia… harmed, was too much.
“Yo-you have to promise-“
Silas motioned once more to the torturer.
In the end, David lost consciousness three more times before finally revealing what little he knew. Embarrassed and frightened, he divulged what he had been doing, seeing the same unicorn the entire journey to Vasherton. How he had been saved from an Amazon, and how he had used the blade to cut the magic alarm that had been set around the camp. He kept quiet about Delilah, and he considered it a small blessing that Silas did not pick up on his omission. He told of how he and Ophelia had spoken at length, that final night, and even how he had made plans to see her again. When he came to the part where he went back and placed the blade exactly as it had been, Silas stopped him.
“And that’s it? That’s all? You never slept with the unicorn? Never gave her the blade and had her enchant its replacement? You used it to get past my alarm and go on a little date, and that’s it?”
“Yes?” David said, nervous.
For a moment, David was fearful that Silas should motion to the torturer. But he did not. He simply nodded his head.
“Very well then. Get some rest.”
And then he turned to leave, the torturer leaving after him with a small look of disappointment on his face. David noticed that he had not taken any of the buckets or the rag. He frowned deeply at the realization that this was not the end of his torment. He became increasingly aware of how uncomfortable he was, and the fact that he could not shift or turn, and that the slight breeze from the window was rather chilling on his wet brow.
A small cough brought David’s attention to the last man left in the room.
The young John Vasher had not left with the other two. David had not noticed at first, due to the man’s natural quietness. He looked on him with general detachment, still shook up from the strange experience. He hadn’t even known such techniques existed, and he wasn’t sure he wanted anymore lessons. It hadn’t been bloody, but he still felt violated, humiliated, vulnerable. He hadn’t felt like that since his younger days, tellingly before he became proficient in controlling his magic. John Vasher continued to look on him silently, making no noise or movement. After what seemed like hours, but what was likely only minutes, he spoke.
“I’m sorry about that. He was rather angry at you. He has a bad habit of trusting the wrong people. He assumed things were a lot worse than they were.”
David remained silent.
“If it makes you feel any better, you held out rather well for never undergoing training to overcome this sort of thing. I’ve seen men break far more quickly.”
“Why are you here?” David asked, still rather out of it.
“Because I want some questions answered, and I didn’t want Silas to hear them. He respects me enough to leave me alone with you, so he’s not coming back. Not today anyway.”
David wasn’t about to refuse. He had no more secrets anyway. Well, he supposed Delilah was one. But he suspected they’d assume a lot worse things were going on if they knew a demon held him captive just to chat.
“You didn’t sleep with Bernice did you?”
John gave a visible sigh of relief.
“That’s good. That would have been messy. I heard from Silas you were the one to subdue her? When she was possessed by a parasite slime?”
“Yes, that’s right. Did he tell you why I didn’t subdue the guard that was sent to arrest me?”
“Yes he did. That’s actually why he was so ready to believe you’d hand the blade over. He thought they tempted you into some sort of a bargain to somehow try and get your magic back.”
David tilted his head, his mouth drawn up in confusion
“Why did he tell you all of this? Hell, why are you even here?”
“Because I’m his friend. And I’m here because I don’t think you should be.”
That took David out of it.
“What do you mean by that? You intend to free me?”
“Not exactly, no. I can’t do that without losing a lot of face. There are things going on that… just aren’t that easy to explain. Court intrigue, politics, cloak and dagger affairs. You know, the usual.”
“Yeah, I get it.”
“But.” he held a finger up. “I happen to have more reach than Silas realizes. Than my father realizes as well. So, if you’re willing to do me a favor, I’m willing to do you one.”
“You’re going to free me… if I do you a favor? I apologize if I’m coming across as dense, but I was almost drowned a moment ago.”
“That’s the gist of it yes. I need you to gather those artifacts for me, like you said you would for Silas before this falling out. In exchange, I get you access to magic, and let you go. I even have uh… men on the outside of the city ready to take you in.”
David couldn’t be sure if it was the ringing in his head, or the fact he still felt shaken from his ordeal, but this seemed highly suspicious. He knew nothing about this man, other than the fact that he was responsible for ordering him captured.
“Why should I trust you? You’re the reason I’m here aren’t you? You gave the order?”
“I-” John looked away, red in the face. “I did. But believe me, I didn’t want to. As I said before, I need to keep up appearances. This was the gentlest I could get them to treat you. Please, believe me.”
“It didn’t seem all that gentle to me.”
“Its torture, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But believe me, it’s better than what Oleg had in mind.”
“The torturer. He loves his job a bit too much. And he likes to… experiment.”
The squat man’s smile still freshly haunted David’s memory, and he shuddered at the thought of him. John cleared his throat when it became apparent that David was spacing out.
“I can’t stay here too much longer. I need you to answer some questions for me, okay? Then, later tonight, expect a visit. One of my associates will get you out of the city. You can go meet Ophelia again.”
David hesitated, still not fully trusting the man. But as he thought about it a bit more, and he pushed his recent ordeal to the back of his mind, it became clear that John was actually sincerely offering escape.
“Alright, what do you want to know?”
“Silas, what did he tell you about the artifacts he was gathering?” the young Vasher asked.
“Nothing. I don’t even know what they are. I don’t know where they are, and I don’t know why he wants them. I know the blade cures monsterization, but that’s it.”
“Okay then… he’s been careful. One final thing. I may… in the future, need you to fetch these things. Soon, in fact, before my associates can. Will you be willing to do this If I get you free?”
“If you get me free I’ll name my first son after you.”
John seemed slightly embarrassed at that, but David might have imagined that. He still felt rather detached.
“Alright then. Sit tight. I’ll have someone fetch you after midnight.”
And then he was gone.
David sat there in his cell alone for a good amount of time. He could hear the comings and goings of passerby outside the small window at the bottom of the street, and paid attention long enough for it all to become one monotonous blur. His face dried quickly, but his shirt and hair still clung to him, a reminder of his “gentle” torture. He did his best not to dwell on his memories of suffocating darkness and cold. In time, he fell asleep, it was the only thing he could really do. As time passed, and the sun and moon swapped places, David awoke to the sound of scurrying rats. The day had passed into night.
John paced nervously in his room, wondering if they would come before his father awoke and called for the meeting to begin. He knew they would come eventually, but they were not consistent with keeping a schedule. He needed them now! David needed to get out of the city tonight or he wasn’t going to get out at all. He glanced outside his bay window, to the full moon above. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. A full moon meant a lot of light, which meant they’d be easier to spot. But he had also heard that they increased in strength during the full moon. But he had been filled with so much propaganda over the years, he didn’t know what was true and what was false anymore.
With a heavy sigh he sat on his bed and buried his face in his hands. He was not meant for these sorts of things. Plots, intrigue, deceit and false piety plagued the nobility. His father was a master of it, and everyone was looking forward to his death. Because then they had to deal with him, a novice who had shown several times a weakness of morality.
“But what’s wrong with that?” he thought to himself.
Rupert was his only real friend. Silas was his father’s comrade, and even then they often bickered and argued, schemed and plotted against each other. It was more like a mutual respect and mutual goals that kept them on friendly terms with each other. With this latest scheme by the both of them, John was certain things would only get worse. His father would pass on, and Silas would hold far too much sway in human affairs.
So what was John to do? With his father’s death, he’d be very much alone in a very hostile world. And his father was very ill, it was likely he wouldn’t last much longer.
Suddenly he heard a rapping on the window. He turned his head, and saw his new friends. His new companions. They had come, just like they promised.
He quickly jumped from the bed and opened the window, letting them both inside. The two entered in a flash, landing softly on the floor in padded footwear. As they stood up straight they revealed to John a dazzling display of beauty and grace. Hoshiko, and Miyako, Kunoichi from the Overlord’s army that were preparing even now to take the city.
And install him as a king of a new far more peaceful kingdom.
John couldn’t help but linger on their forms. He had been trained to restrain his baser urges, but they presented an allure too strong for any but the strongest willed men to resist.
Miyako had alabaster skin, obsidian black hair, and soft caramel colored eyes. She wore an exotic outfit John had only seen in one obscure book in his father’s library. A short Zipangu-style blue robe, with a deep neckline revealing a rather large bosom. The sleeves were removed in her case. The robe was slit on the sides, revealing her wide well-shaped hips and thighs, and strange black tattoos, shaped like hearts. Midway up her thighs, she wore fishnet stockings, with leather armor covering her shins, padded blue sandals protecting her feet. She wore a blue face mask over the bottom half of her face, but he truly didn’t know why. She wasn’t exactly covert.
Her sister was nearly identical to her, though Hoshiko had much darker skin, nearly chestnut in color, and beautiful pearl white hair. Her eyes were also a shade of blue, not unlike the colors her sister’s robes were. Her outfit was also differently colored, a reddish color with highlights of gold. But, if it were not for the different colors, they would be identical. John was quite sure of that. All in all, they seemed human, despite their scandalous clothes and voluptuous forms. At least, before you realized their ears were pointed like an elf’s, and the whips behind them swaying to and fro were their tails.
The Kunoichi of the Overlord’s army were specialized succubae, they had told him so themselves.
“John-kun, I told you to leave the window open! Someone might hear us tapping on the window!” said Miyako
“Hai, I agree with nii-san Vasher-sama.” Hoshiko crossed her arms over her chest, causing them to pile even higher above her neckline.
“Please, ladies, could you speak the language of the mainland? You confuse me when you mix the Zipangu language in there.”
“As you wish Master.” Hoshiko bowed deeply, arms ramrod straight. John looked away as her breasts were revealed even more so, as they spilled over her “kimono” due to her position.
“Hoshiko, stop being so formal! John-ku- er. John doesn’t mind.”
“Whether he minds or not is irrelevant. He is our master, and is due the respect of a master.”
John nervously rubbed the back of his neck. He had servants, but he never had them call him master. Not to mention, having the two most beautiful women he’d ever seen call him such, well he was only human, and was prone to the occasional illicit fantasy.
“Hey, you two. I need a favor. I’m having dinner with my father tonight, so we don’t have a lot of time. So listen up!”
Hoshiko sat down on the ground with her legs folded neatly underneath her, hands on her knees, and back stiff. Her sister, however, took a light step forward, getting uncomfortably close to him. She looked up at him with her large doe-like eyes, and John’s heart skipped a beat.”
“John, we have some news from Naruko-sama. It’s very urgent! Could I please ask a favor first?”
“W-what does she want?”
“She needs you to sneak a man out of the city. Or… we have to, but we were hoping you could help us find him? We’ve checked all the inns in the city already! He’s not in any of them!”
“…wait, what’s the name of the guy?”
Miyako gave him a blank stare before glancing to her sister.
“David.” Hoshiko said with a sigh. “He’s a short pale man with blue eyes, and brown hair. He wears purple.”
John found this a very odd coincidence. Had David been holding back during his… ‘session?’
“Well, that does sound familiar… why are you looking for him?”
“Delilah-sama is doing a favor for her new BFF.”
John looked at Miyako as if she had sprouted a new head.
“I’m sorry… who? And what?”
Hoshiko rolled her eyes, annoyed at her sister’s mannerisms.
“Master, Lady Delilah is the demon controlling the army outside the walls. She presides over Lady Naruko. She’s recently befriended a local unicorn that claims a good friend of hers, this David, is here in the city, and that he might be in danger due to her actions. We, along with a few more select spies, have been tasked with finding him and bringing him to the camp before any harm can befall him.”
John kept himself composed, but it was quite difficult. It seemed that David had been telling the truth about this unicorn. And apparently, Silas was right to have suspected him. The unicorn was indeed working with the enemy. He could only praise God that Silas was unaware of the impending invasion. Otherwise, David might not be quite all in one piece.
“Well, you might be too late then. He was captured earlier today.”
Miyako and Hoshiko’s eyes went wide. After they shared a very worried look, John put his hands on their shoulders in a comforting gesture.
“Don’t worry. He’s fine. Shaken a bit, but fine. Though… He might not be for long.”
“What do you mean? What happened?” asked Miyako, her eyes wet with worry.
“He was… ah, aggressively interrogated. I did the most I could without arousing suspicion . Silas is convinced he’s a traitor to humanity.”
“Oh, better not let him know about us then, Master.” Hoshiko said while standing up and pacing the floor. “Or else he might do whatever he did to David to you.”
John shivered at the thought. He didn’t fancy going under any torture.
“I actually was going to ask you two to go and fetch him, take him with you out of the city. I promised him as much actually, last we spoke.”
The two Kunoichi shared a look.
“Actually master, if he’s captured, then we need to call in others. We aren’t equipped for a break-in. Can you tell us where exactly he is? Be as descriptive as you can.”
Miyako perked up at her sister’s words.
“Hoshiko, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Hai. Yuraazha-chan and Arsanggha-chan”
John gave them a quizzical look.
“I’m sorry were those words?”
“Very powerful Mamono that are here in the city looking for David same as us. They’re expert spies, even better than us.” Miyako took a pink crystal out from somewhere John didn’t see. She recited some sort of incantation John didn’t catch, and it gave a brief white flash. A disembodied voice came from the crystal soon after.
“Hello? Hello? Miyako is that you?” the disembodied voice spoke in a sing-song voice that gave John the shivers
“Hai, I’ve found out where David is.”
“That’s great! Where is he?”
Miyako held the crystal in front of John’s face suddenly, catching him off-guard. He looked at the two Kunoichi who merely waved him on, small smiles on their faces. After a few seconds the disembodied voice spoke once more, asking if anyone was still there.
“Yes, I’m here.” said John.
John shook his head, declining to answer that. He didn’t know much about magic, but he didn’t trust any form of communication to be all that secure.
“Unimportant. What is important is that David is locked up in prison cell 9-33, under the castle. He’s strapped onto a table under a street window disguised as a gutter drain.”
After a few moments of silence, the voice spoke again.
“What’s the name of the street the window is on?”
“Bakersfield. Oh! And you need to go up two stories above that! I promised him something from that room. It-”
Without warning Miyako crushed the crystal into a fine powder. Startled, John yelled out.
“Hey! What’d you do that for?!”
“Apologies John-kun, I mean John. But someone could have tracked the signal of the crystal after activation. They’re a one use item only.”
“Still I didn’t finish telling them everything. I thin-“
A knock came from John’s door. Miyako and Hoshiko vanished in a flash of smoke before John could react. He knew they were still in the room, but they had hidden themselves so well they had effectively disappeared. He straightened his clothes and composed himself before walking over and opening the door. One of his father’s servants greeted him with a bow.
“Young Master, your father requires your presence. You are to eat Dinner in the second dining room. Lady Vanderhousen and her daughter will be joining you.”
That surprised him.
“Lady Vanderhousen is here?!”
John thanked the man and dismissed him, running his hand through his hair. When had Lady Vanderhousen gotten to the city? Bernice had just arrived earlier that morning! He did not like these implications. He quickly undressed from his current attire, and put on a more appropriate attire for dinner. The details were minute, but in high-class society they were important. As he prepared in front of his vanity, a gentle embrace came from behind. In the mirror, he could make out Hoshiko nuzzling her masked face in his shoulder, her pointed ears swishing back and fro in time with her long whip like tail. Miyako descended from the ceiling, her tail acting like a ballast, wrapped around the chandelier. Her legs wrapped around her tail in a lurid display, and one hand of hers kept her short robe from uncovering her nether regions. John’s most intimate body parts began to react to the lewd display and bodily warmth.
“Y-you two, I can’t do that right now. I need to get to my fa-“
He was cut off as Hoshiko took hold of his face and kissed him fiercely on the lips, her mask fluttering to the ground. He attempted to pull away, but was pressed into Hoshiko’s embrace by Miyako, who had wrapped her arms around them both from the back, no longer on the ceiling. John’s body heated up quickly as the two well-endowed women rubbed their sizeable breasts along his body. Miyako groped at his butt with impure intentions and Hoshiko wrapped her arms around John as she kept up her kissing with wild abandon.
John’s worries and thoughts about his father vanished. The fact that he was going to be late for a very important meeting vanished. His room and all his insecurities likewise vanished. All that was left was himself and the two beautiful women. He ceased resisting almost immediately and returned Hoshiko’s embrace and became an equally eager kisser. His worries and pains and thoughts melted away as all that was left was the soft voluptuous flesh that enveloped him. No one in the courts had showed much interest in him beyond his station, beyond what they could get. But Miyako and Hoshiko, they had captured his heart in ways no one else could have. They brought comfort and peace in a world of lies and daggers.
His trousers dropped down to his ankles with a quick tug of Miyako’s tail. He briefly broke his kiss with Hoshiko to look at her. She smiled with her large doe-like eyes, an innocent look on her face despite her lewd intentions.
“I know you have to leave… but we want to do this for our master one last time before things get too busy, okay? Things are going to get really busy soon. And we want John-kun to know how much we love him.”
“I…I love you too.”
And then he kissed her. Hoshiko got to her knees and came face to face with John’s very erect member. Without hesitating she licked at the head, moistening the shaft with slow deliberate strokes. John nearly broke his kiss with Miyako before she snaked her hand behind his head and forced him to keep his attention elsewhere. Hoshiko was not perturbed however, and continued her soft ministrations. She began fondling John’s balls as she ran her tongue gently down the shaft. The soft kneading excited John even more, and almost reflexively, he placed his hands on Hoshiko’s head.
Miyako broke her kiss and gave a gentle smile at her sister. Hoshiko gave a wink and moved off to the side, patting the space next to her. Miyako joined her sister on her knees, looking up at her master with tender eyes. His face red, he moved his second hand to Miyako, and pressed her head gently to his cock. Without any motivation needed, she gave it a kiss before engulfing it to the base. John gave a jerk at the pleasant sensation, Hoshiko still massaging his balls. The two worked in sync, Miyako’s lips twisting and pumping up and down the shaft, with Hoshiko licking eagerly at any exposed skin. John didn’t last long, and came heavily.
White frothy cum shot out of his cock and slathered the two on their breasts, lips, and chins. With a smile, they began to kiss at each other, lapping up every drop of John’s spunk. His cum dripped off of their perfect bodies in enticing fashion, and only made John want them more. He dropped to the floor, and without waiting for them to finish, he kissed Hoshiko on the lips, his own cum still dribbling on her bottom lip. He was enthralled, pressing his own body into hers in desperate need. His rod found her entrance quickly, and without even waiting, he entered her.
She moaned deeply into John’s mouth, and their kiss broke once more. John’s face was red, embarrassed at what he had done, what he was doing. Hoshiko just gave a gentle laugh and began bucking her hips. Behind them, Miyako began dry-humping John, eager to get her turn. He turned to her, eye to eye, and snaked his hands into hers, holding tight as he embraced her.
John could quite honestly state that he had never been happier than when he was with the two women the demons that had been sent to “depose” him. It didn’t take long for him to cum inside Hoshiko, who only gave a soft moan as her own body shivered as his hips bucked with release. With a wet plop he came out of her pussy, but his cock didn’t stay bare for long. With a quick swivel Miyako came down hard and fast on John’s still pulsating cock. She bit her lip as a squeal of delight almost left her. John smiled at her, they were lustful, but mindful at the same time. John didn’t want to explain to his father the sounds of squealing girls coming from his room.
The gentle rocking of John’s hips caused a different expression to blossom on Miyako’s face with each thrust. He smiled at how cute she looked, but as Hoshiko began playing with her sister’s breasts, He began only to feel his own lust swell. His hips rocked more forcefully, and Miyako’s expression slackened with ecstasy. The contrast of their skin, both flawless and without blemish excited him more than he would ever admit. Dark on light, light on dark, without mark or flaw excited him to no end. Miyako’s body shivered as an orgasm came over her, and John came soon after. With a final kiss, John separated from his lovely assassin.
“I- heh. Thank you. I needed that.”
Hoshiko gave him a sincere smile and bowed her head, as she stood up
“I only wish we could continue, Master.”
“As do I, but my father is waiting.”
Miyako gave John a sad smile as she stood up and bowed. With one final longing look, John got ready and left his room. His night was not yet over.
David had stopped counting the bricks in his cell when he reached 1012, and instead had turned his attention to the horrible cramps and aches he was feeling in his arms and legs. He hadn’t been able to move them for hours, and he was surprised how much they bothered him. He tried thinking of happier things, like the night before he, Kris, Danny, and Devon had gone out to help general Skye defeat the upstart forces. He had never been much of a drinker, but Kris and Devon were. Devon had always been bawdy and loud, and had fooled more than one person into believing he was a warrior due to his size and rough temperament, but drinking had a way of making him more pleasant. The opposite was true for Kris. Normally calm and emotionally distant, he’d gotten rip-roaring drunk. And when Kris got drunk he got loud, and very friendly. He’d danced with the barmaid, and the bartender, and the bouncer before the night was through. It had surprised a few folks who thought because of his garb he was a holy man. David had almost wished he had gotten drunk. But no, he just watched his friends from the corner, like he usually did. He hadn’t expected the next day to be so eventful.
He was too eager to latch on to the first people who came along. He should have gone his own way as soon as he learned where his friends, his real friends, had been taken. Bernice, Silas, they were strangers and always had been. Knowing their names meant nothing. Hell, Ophelia should have meant nothing. He’d known her for maybe two weeks now, so why was he willing to be tortured for her sake? Because she was pretty? Because she was kind? Because she fought for him and put herself at risk…
He groaned. That was exactly why. He tried to stretch out his limbs to stop their aching, but it was to no avail. He had almost resigned himself to counting the bricks again when he heard a noise. Straining his ears, he realized it was the scuffing of feet coming down the hall. He hoped that is was not the torturer, Oleg. He strained his eyes in the dark, peering at the sliver of light streaming through the gap between the floor and the door. Someone was coming alright, someone with a lantern.
David braced himself for the homely face of his tormentor but was still rather alarmed to see it all the same. Oleg peered in with a strange glazed-over look on his face. He came in quietly, the lantern swaying gently. David had a very certain feeling that he was not meant to be there. He called out, trying to get someone to come down to his cell, but either it was too far from anyone’s ears, or no one was going to pay heed to a traitor. Either way, Oleg came closer, his greasy hair bobbing ever so slightly from his gait.
As he came closer, David’s heart pounded furiously, panicked. Oleg stood over him silent. David fell silent as well, waiting for the man to accomplish whatever it was he was there for. But, curiously, Oleg moved past him, to the window above him, that was near the bottom of the street. He moved his lantern to it, and then stood still like a statue. David was confused, and relieved in equal measure. What was he doing?
Suddenly, a black sludge began pouring into the dungeon from the street window. David called out again, but this time Oleg’s hand slapped down hard over his mouth. The sludge continued to pool at Oleg’s feet, though the torturer seemed as passive and unconcerned as before. David thrashed against his bindings, not liking this one bit. Finally, as the last of the viscous liquid plopped into his cell, he began to see it move and shift. His eyes went wide as it began to boil, and glowing lime green orbs began to form. The black slime shot upwards from the pool, and long tendrils split off from the globular column, wriggling and squirming in a grotesque display. David squirmed in his bindings more vigorously, but ultimately, was helpless.
However, as the strange liquid began to take form. David’s fear abated and his curiosity was piqued. It began to form in the shape of a woman. A vague shape, really, her form still appearing wet and as if she was covered in shiny black sludge. As the form solidified, it became apparent that she was translucent, the lantern light shining through her, revealing a purple-tinged sheen to her that had not been obvious before. Beyond her torso, her slime-like mass trailed vaguely like the skirt of a dress, her tentacles still wriggling about her, but daintily, as if they were underwater. Her form reminded him of a maid in modest dress, with long hair framing her face. Though she had no hair, only more trails of translucent purplish-black film implying it’s shape.
Her eyes caught his, glowing lime-green orbs much like what was embedded in other parts of her body, and she gave a small smile. David felt a lurch in the pit of his stomach, but was in far too much in awe to do anything about it. Almost forgotten, Oleg removed his hand from David’s mouth as the strange monster flowed over the stone floor towards David’s side.
“Apologies Sir, it took a great deal of effort to find this place. I will be swifter in the future.”
David turned his eyes to Oleg, but he remained impassive. It occurred to him that the monster was talking to him.
“I’m sorry, what? Who are you?! What are you?!
The strange slimy creature stared down at him with a curious motherly expression that calmed David despite the odd circumstances. The calm left his body however as a tendril slithered up in the air by her face, and shifted itself into a pair of scissors, a metallic glint shining in the light of the lantern. But before David could make more of a ruckus, the tentacle dropped to his bonds and snipped them cleanly, freeing him.
David, confused but grateful, stood up slowly and planted his feet firmly on the floor. It was cold on his bare feet, but it felt good to stretch out his limbs. After stretching out his limbs and shaking out his cramps, he turned his attention to the strange creature.
“You didn’t answer my questions.”
“Apologies sir, I thought you might want to stretch out first. You poor thing, were you strapped down long?”
“You still haven’t answered my questions. But I’m a man who likes a bit of tit for tat, so I’ll answer yours. No, I wasn’t strapped down too long, and thank you. I did want to stretch. Now, if you’d be so kind?”
The strange undulating blackish-purple translucent woman gave a curtesy, her tentacles making a bowing gesture.
“I apologize, my name is Yuurazha, I am a shoggoth. I was sent by lady Delilah to fetch you before you got into trouble. I was too late, and for this I am sincerely sorry.”
“You sure do apologize a lot. Nothing you did, I was just… careless with my trust. Wait, did you say Delilah? Not Lord Vasher?”
David heard a wet squelching sound from the darkness of the doorway left open by Oleg. He turned on his heel to find glowing green eyes staring back at him from the inky blackness of the doorway. More luminescent green orbs began to appear around the eyes, placed in squiggled lines that seemed to follow the graceful movements of an octopus. As the source of the lights came closer, David found that his guess wasn’t too far off.
Another she-monster, shining in the lantern-light with a slimy undulating body. Although this time, she was not made of liquid, but merely lightly coated with it. She was humanoid from the waist up, like the other, but also like the other her “skirt” was very inhuman. A mass of purplish-pink tentacles, webbing between them, flowed like water as she made her way close. Her hair like-wise was a mass of smaller undulating tentacles. The tentacles appeared again around her hands, dainty as they were, as if like billowing sleeves. Parts of her body were lighter colored that others, giving the illusion of clothing, but it was shades of pink and purple, and David could plainly see they were no clothes, especially with the light shimmering of mucus strings still clinging to the last surface they touched. Imbedded in her body, were those glowing lime-green orbs, like a jeweled necklace around her throat, or a jewel-encrusted bodice covering her chest.
Still, with all the horrific monstrous qualities, David could plainly see a womanly form and pleasant face. He frowned a bit, realizing once more what the world had come to.
“Good god, what are you?!”
“A thank you would be nice, you know.” The newest creature said. David shook his head, still baffled at all this strangeness.
“Thank you, both of you. But, could you please tell me what you two are, and what’s this about Delilah sending you? What about Vasher?”
“Inquisitive, isn’t he?” the tentacled creature said, a smirk on her lips. “My name is Arsanggha, and this is Yuurazha. She’s a shoggoth, and I’m a mind-flayer, Delilah sent out a dozen spies to come get you before Silas found out your unicorn buddy switched swords on you. Looks like we didn’t quite get to you fast enough. Sorry about that! But hey, you don’t look too bad huh?”
David hardly had time to process what she had said before she moved past him and began ordering Oleg to get on the table and hand over the lantern. Yuurazha stood still, hand folded in front of her and her head bowed. David realized then that Oleg was under a trance. Arsanggha was a Psion.
“You know I actually don’t know what a mind-flayer, or a shoggoth actually is.”
Arsanggha looked up at him with a coy smile as Oleg closed his eyes and fell limp on the table.
“Oh don’t worry about it, you’ll learn all about us~. Now that our dear guide has been put to sleep, and his memories’ve been scrubbed, its time for us to leave.”
The slime woman, Yuurazha, held up a finger.
“Arsa, you’re forgetting what the gentleman on the other side said. We need to fetch something upstairs.”
“Yuura, I didn’t forget, I was simply going to ignore it. We don’t want to alert anyone that we’re here. That’s why I was the one coming in the building.”
“I can become as unnoticeable as you can. Even more, really.”
“But can our guest?”
The two woman gave a look of quizzical amusement in David’s direction. He gave them both a blank stare.
David looked at the two confused.
David had stopped fretting about what these creatures were or if it was truly wise to throw in his lot with them. He had no real choice. This wasn’t his world, and he had no allegiance but to himself. Still, he found it very peculiar the situation he had happened upon. He gave a nod to a passing guard as he passed by. He waited for a moment before the guard passed the corner down the hallway to see if he aroused any suspicion. But, of course, he did not.
He felt his legs moving on their own, apparently, not as patient as he. He gave a grumble as he let the suit of armor he wore guide him forward. The candlelit corridor was hard for him to navigate, especially with a closed helm, but it wasn’t really up to him. As he rounded the next corridor to march up a flight of stairs he just now noticed, he came across two more guards. Though at first they ignored him, as they were passing, one stopped, curious.
“Wait, what’s your name and where are you going?”
David stopped, and gave him a smile.
“Oh, I’m just patrolling the floors.”
“Yeah, I can see that. Open your helm.”
David gave a shrug and opened his helm. The two guards stared a bit, before nodding their heads and going on. As they passed by, David let a smirk grace his face. He turned to Arsanggha, whose smirk was even bigger than his own.
“You know I’ve always wondered, just how much fun is being a Psion?”
“A lot. How’s your armor suiting you?”
“Fairly well, less slimy than I imagined.”
His breastplate sprouted eyes in response, and began to join in the conversation.
“I told you, sir, I can freely manipulate my body in a variety of shapes and colors.”
“I know, its just… a suit of armor? Its pretty cool.”
“Th-thank you, sir”
David looked down at her face, curious about the stutter, but it melded back into the breastplate before he could look her in the eye. He quickly forgot about the little stutter as He followed Arsanggha up the stairs. They came to a large wooden door, ornately decorated with iron latches and locks. It was, of course, closed. The tentacled woman gave a push, but it didn’t budge. But before anything more could be done, Yuurazha dissolved into a puddle of black goo and shot up into the form David first met her in. She flung out her arms and a barrage of tentacles slunk into the various locks. In a few scant seconds, the door opened inward, and David stepped in, impressed. Arsanggha slid past him with a wink, and began to explore. David chose to ignore her.
“I have to say, I’m glad I didn’t meet you two before.”
“Before what, sir?”
Realizing his blunder, David gave a nervous smile.
“Before I befriended Ophelia, had my mind changed about monsters. I’d hate to have to fight you two. Even If I did have my magic.”
“I wouldn’t want to fight you either, sir. Now, do you know what we’re looking for?”
Arsanggha called from the interior, exclaiming she had found something. David gave a friendly smile to the slime woman and moved ahead, she followed with head bowed.
The inside of the room was covered with lush carpets and tapestries, reminding David instantly of the tomb he had explored the day he saved Bernice from a pink slime. But where that tomb had eventually given way to paneled wood, this chamber was merely a flat gray stone. There were rows upon rows of shelves, with books of every color shape and size. Still, there were shelves with bottles of equal variety. Their contents ranging from a glittering gold-like liquid, to what seemed powdered stardust, twinkling with a beauty David couldn’t recall ever seeing before. Scattered about the room, away from the shelves and walls were pedestals with various treasures, no two alike. Ornate gold and silver wands, scepters, masks, boxes, and statuettes adorned them.
As David explored the room, he realized that this was a treasure trove of rare and even magical artifacts. He recognized several items he had encountered over his previous life. A Mask of Night, an Ice Drake Wand, and a curious statue of Aphrodite that seemed much more well-endowed than any other statue he’d seen of the goddess. He remembered that John Vasher had promised him a way to reclaim his magic. David had been confused before, but he understood now. Some items within this vault most definitely were able to allow their wielder to accomplish some small magical tricks. A Scepter of Serpents caught David’s eyes briefly, a wooden scepter with a carved cobra’s head, but ultimately he thought better of it. Snake magic just wasn’t his thing.
The slime woman, or shoggoth, kept close to him, her head bowed. Arsanggha flit about with a smile on her face, her tendrils groping and caressing anything interesting she came by. She eventually pulled several books off of a shelf and began perusing them.
“Weren’t we in a hurry?” Yuurazha asked in a quiet voice.
Arsanggha made a dismissive gesture with her hand.
“We can’t go anywhere until David picks something. So we might as well see if anything tickles our fancy too. Who knew humans had so many interesting things? Remind me to come back here after the invasion.”
That caught David’s attention.
Arsanggha gave him a haughty wink, her tentacled hair tousled by her sudden movement.
“Oh? You didn’t know? That’s the whole reason we’re allied with the Vasher boy, he’s going to rule the city after we overrun it. He didn’t mention that to you?”
David ran his hand through his hair, conflicted feeling over coming him. This whole situation was beyond his control in ways he just wasn’t used to.
“You know… I’m going to reserve judgment for now. I have no idea what I’m doing or what side I’m on. I don’t know who’s right or wrong, or really even the basics of this whole world. So I’m going to keep my mouth shut for now. But, I would like to really get down to business after we’re out of the city okay?”
“Sure thing, sweetheart. But If I could make a suggestion? Just enjoy the ride. Things are going to get very good, for everyone, very soon. They just need to relax. But you humans, so high strung, you’d think it was the end of the world.”
David wanted to make a comment about how it very may well be, remembering the demographic crises outlined by Silas, but decided to keep quiet. Now just wasn’t the time. A flash of light caught his attention from behind a book shelf. Arsanggha and Yuurazha noticed it too, and followed him as he navigated the near maze like vault. As he cornered a shelf filled with very oddly shaped crystals, he saw what surely were the most valuable things to be kept within the Vasher’s vault.
Atop four gold-leafed pedestals were four large plain glass bottles. Inside were four spheres about two inches in diameter, hovering within. One was alight, a flickering flame, another was a dark black earth, green vines weaving in and out of it. Another was a swirling vortex of air, barely more than a blur, and the last was a crystal-clear ball of water, swirling lazily in place.
Yuurazha flowed past the other two and picked up the bottle with the swirling water ball, a look of amazement on her face.
“What are these delightful things?”
“Elementals, I think.” David said, picking up the one containing the earth. “They’re very powerful creatures, and if bound to a person, grant him an unparalleled amount of control over their corresponding element. I was obsessed with finding one in my youth, but had to make due with old fashioned memorization of spells.”
“How old are you, David sir?”
“Not old enough to be called sir, I’m in my mid-twenties.”
Arsanggha grabbed the last two with her tentacles, and began moving to the door.
“We’ll continue this conversation elsewhere, Ok Yuura? David?”
David hustled after her, with Yuurazha in tow.
“Wait! It’s a little greedy to take all of them don’t you think?”
“I would have come by to raid the vault anyway, If you don’t want all of them just give them to me.”
He looked at Arsanggha exasperated. The mindflayer would make a good mercenary. He relented, not wanting to draw anything out. Yuurazha placed a hand gently on his shoulder and gave him a shy smile before placing the bottle of the water elemental in his free hand. He thanked her, but wished he had a bag or big enough pockets to place the bottles into. Almost reading his mind, Yuurazha formed a shoulder bag out of her own slime, and handed it to him, a smile on her face.
He was hesitant at first, but took it nonetheless. If only to placate Yuurazha. She beamed as he accepted her gift, and placed the bottles inside. It was rather impressive, not feeling at all like the damp moistness that it should have. Instead it felt like a cool dry soft fabric. David was starting to see the difference between a shoggoth and a regular slime.
They moved quietly down the tower and past the previous hallways, not a guard in sight. Arsanggha led the way, David following, and Yuurazha trailing behind. David had been stripped of his signature purple robe, and his slippers, and as he approached the outside, he began to feel a powerful chill. He almost asked that they go and fetch them, but ultimately thought better of it. They had spent too much time here already, he needed to get out of the city.
As they came to the short stone stairway that led to the street, David heard a powerful commotion just beyond the door, and several lantern lights pass under the door. Yuurazha and Arsanggha stood still, and beckoned him to do the same. After a few moments, the lanterns passed, but the commotion only seemed to grow. Arsanggha motioned for Yuurazha and David to stay still as she slithered up to the door and pressed the side of her head to the door, though funnily enough David didn’t see any ears on her head. After a few moments she gestured them to come closer. She pressed her fingers to her lips and made a shushing sound as she whispered.
“Ok, so I can feel a lot of minds out there, more than there should be at this time of night. They’re agitated too, upset at something. I don’t know why though. I’m not sure I can shield us from so many minds.”
David looked at her with eyebrow quirked.
“Can’t you read their minds? See what they’re so agitated about?”
“Not without direct eye contact, I’m afraid. I can only really feel them and their emotions otherwise.”
“Can’t you at least tell us how many there are?”
“Sorry, no. It’s like… you know how you can count a couple of people in a room, but it’s nearly impossible to count how many people there are in a crowd? It’s a bit like that.”
David sighed deeply into his hand. This wasn’t good. He wracked his mind for an idea, but before two seconds had passed, Yuurazha had split herself apart and transformed herself into two dark purple cloaks, and draped herself over Arsanggha and David. Her eyes peeked out of David’s cloak, as she spoke.
“You don’t have to cloak us completely Arsa, just make us a little vague.”
“Thanks Yuura, I’ll do my best.”
David wasn’t sure this was really the best idea, but he had nothing else to offer.
“Alright then, let’s do it. Thank you Arsanggha.”
“Oh please, call me Arsa~”
David didn’t have time to react as she gave him a peck on the cheek, and opened the door with a squirming tentacle. Almost immediately David was wracked with a cold wind. Snow gently fell around him, and already a light covering of snow dusted the roads and buildings. He felt the cold sting him like a thousand knives, his feet bare to the snow. Almost instantly, his feet were covered with makeshift slippers, courtesy of Yuurazha. He made to thank her, but was pulled along with a sharp tug on his arm by Arsa.
They flung deep into the night, passing by guards in shimmering plate and frantic townsmen with ghostly lanterns in hand. The wind, though biting, was not vicious. As David clung tightly to his cloak, following Arsa down the surprisingly lively streets, he was struck with how quick the snow had caught the city unaware. Lights seemed to flicker behind every window, a panic stricken faces inside. Arsa seemed to pick up the pace as more lanterns shone on the cobblestone roads. They passed by a nearby alley, and She immediately ducked into it, pulling David along with her.
Her breathing was heavy, and David could see sweat pooling on her forehead. It dripped off onto the street, a slightly reddish pink color to her lavender cheeks. David got closer, confused, and whispered.
“Hey, why’d we stop? We need to get going. We’re sitting ducks out here!”
She took a gulping breath before leveling her haunting eyes at David. “I can’t main-maintain my thoughts. So m-many people, frantic. These disguises are too flimsy, without my powers, someone w-will suspect something. I need to rest, j-just for a second”
“Can’t you speed it up somehow?!”
She gave him a lecherous grin, and scooted closer. Her tentacle-like hair, caressing his face. David jolted backwards, not expecting that.
“A little mana will go a long way, if you want to help~”
She lunged forward, her hand fumbling for his trousers. Shocked, he scrambled away, hands tight around his belt. But before he could admonish her, Yuurazha’s head bubbled up from his cloak.
“Arsa! You stop that! We were ordered not to mate with him! He’s not ours!”
Arsa gave a huff, and folded her arms roughly against her chest.
Yuurazha glared at her. Arsanggha gave an exasperated sigh in response.
“Fine. But I do need to rest. The cold and the people are sapping me of strength. I haven’t put up so many mental barriers in so many people for years. What’s everyone doing anyway? They should be asleep.”
“Just read one of their minds, what kind of Psion are you anyway? You seem to be having quite a bit of trouble with it.”
“Aw, that’s mean. I just don’t have much stamina is all. Anyway, If I waste my time reading a mind now, it’ll only slow down how fast my mana recovers, so do-”
Arsanggha huddled up tight, and got silent, drawing into herself so that all David could see was the cloak. Curious, he tapped a shoulder, but she did not respond. Yuurazha had retreated back into his cloak as well, leaving him rather confused and worried. Then, he heard it, a commanding voice booming down the street.
“Find him! Gods take you fools! Find him!”
David drew up into himself much like Arsanggha did, and clutched his satchel close. If it came down to it. Maybe the elementals could help him get away. The noises came closer as the footsteps of soldiers echoed down the streets. Before too long, David could hear the slight shuffling of plate armor, and he began to question his poor attempt to become inconspicuous. He stared down at the slippers Yuura had made for him and onto the snow-covered cobblestone under them. It had already begun to melt under his feet. If that was so, then this snow hadn’t been going on for very long.
The sounds of soldiers came closer, and he could practically feel them as they passed by, the clinking of their armor was so loud. He dared not look up even for a moment. Without his magic, he was helpless. He held his tongue as he fought the desire to curse. He flinched as he felt a hand grab his shoulder. In a panic he stood up, ready to put up a fight. A sad fight, but a fight nonetheless. However, as he was readying himself the soldier spoke.
“Get inside quick! We need these streets clear!”
David couldn’t believe his luck, The soldier didn’t recognize-
“Hey wait a minute, aren’t you-”
David ducked down and tackled the soldiers legs, causing them both to crash onto the street. David reached for the halberd that the soldier had dropped and hurried to his feet. The soldier was quick too, and came up immediately after. David brandished his new weapon, but the soldier was undeterred. He came barreling forward, and batted the halberd away as David attempted a feeble attack. But before the soldier could get his hands on David’s small frame, Yuurazha came to life, a dozen translucent purple tentacles shooting forth from her cloak-form and immobilizing the man. Before the man could cry out, Yuurazha wrapped her tentacles around his mouth tightly, muffling his sound. She dragged the man forward, out of the street, and away from prying eyes.
David, understanding coming to him, helped her drag the man into the alley. Arsa stood up slowly, waiting for the man to enter the shadows. As he did, she strode forward, her tentacles squirming along her body with anticipation. David could see the man struggle even more fiercely. David had a moment of doubt, seeing that strange woman stalk towards a man he was helping restrain for her. What was he doing?
But then it occurred to him, that the man would bring him to Silas, and he’d be further tortured. His moment of doubt passed.
Arsanggha knelt down next to the man, and the tentacles atop her head slithered down and into the man’s ears. David heard a horrible squelching noise, and the man struggled even more so than he had been, but Yuurazha held on tight. A lime green glow overcame Arsanggha’s eyes and the strange orbs embedded in her bodice and throat. A dazed look came over the man’s eyes, and he fell limp. Yuurazha let go of him and retracted her tentacles
David looked at him curious, as he stood up, the same glazed look on his face as Oleg had had earlier.
“What did you do?”
“I’ve turned him into my thrall, for a short time at least. Now, follow me, I have a plan.”
David wasted no time in following her deeper into the alley. Already he could hear more soldiers thunder down the road. Her new thrall followed after them, shuffling his feet. As they turned into the back alley, with no possible way for a curious bystander to see what they were doing, she ordered the soldier to strip. David blushed at the command, but Arsa quickly dismissed his thoughts.
“I don’t quite fancy him, sweetie. But his uniform is going to help us a whole lot.”
“I’m going to wear it. It’ll make hiding my form much easier. The quicker we’re out of the city, the better. This is getting a little out of hand. This should have been much easier. Something odd is happening.”
“Shouldn’t we figure out what? I mean, it’s summer isn’t it? This snow is very out of season, but it shouldn’t induce a panic like this. It’s very strange.”
Arsa gave a shrug.
“Maybe later. Right now, we need to move.”
As she donned the man’s armor, her squid like lower-half slipping in surprisingly easily, Yuurazha recalled the part of her body that had formed Arsa’s cloak. It melted and sloughed off of her form quickly and slithered up to David before it combined with the rest of her and draped across David’s shoulders. Now, with the added mass, she began to replicate the armor Arsanggha was donning. Before David knew it, both he and Arsa were wearing Vasherton city guard uniforms.
Arsa tossed him the two bottles she had been carrying, the light of the fire elemental inside so bright David scrambled to stuff them into his satchel before someone noticed. With all four elementals packed away, and both David and Arsa properly disguised, they headed out of the back alley and back onto the street. It was time to head to the gate.
David tried to take it slow, so as not to draw attention, but Yuura, who was his armor, forced him to hurry his pace. He and Arsa fled among whirling snow, and no one was batting an eyelid. The City Guard was everywhere, knocking on doors and dragging men and women out of their homes. Everywhere David looked, the guards were scouring the city. He forced himself to keep up pace with Arsa, they needed to leave before someone questioned why they weren’t participating in the raids.
As they came closer to the city gate, David noticed they were passing by the bath house where he and Bernice had come to, and where he had been arrested. As they approached the statue of Goliad the Fair, and his adjoining fountain which was now beginning to freeze, David saw a contingent of troops loitering about. He clutched his satchel nervously, a hand snaking inside to uncork one of the elementals should the need arise. Suddenly, he heard a voice barking among the troops.
“We must not let those creatures abscond with our lord! I’m offering a bonus of thirteen hundred gold pieces to the man who brings me those monsters’ heads! Do you hear me? Thirteen hundred! Now get to the city gates! Now!”
The guards saluted before hurrying off into the wintery night. Arsa began to move with them and David followed after, knowing she meant to blend into the crowd. The rancor of metal on stone rang into the night, as flickering lantern lights fought the cold darkness. David kept his eyes forward as the wind picked up, trying to keep Arsa in sight so as not to lose her among the other soldiers. Suddenly, they began to file off and go down different streets. David caught something out of the corner of his eye, a quick flash of movement along the roof of a nearby tavern. As he got a bearing on it, he slowed his pace, at awe at what he was seeing.
A scantily clad woman was carrying a man bridal style as she was hoping from rooftop to rooftop.
Arsa stopped alongside him and caught what he was looking at pretty quick. They shared a brief look. Both of them curious as to just what they were seeing. Yuurazha spoke into David’s ear, startling him a bit.
“We were mistaken David, Sir! They weren’t after us at all!”
“Then who are they after, who is that?”
Arsanggha came closer, so as not to be overheard.
“It looks like… Hoshiko”
John took a deep breath as he patted his clothes for the hundredth time since leaving his two lovers. He had been rehearsing this night in his mind for the past fortnight. But of course, that was before all of this…excitement had entered his life. He did his best to clear his mind before opening the imposing oak doors to the family dining room. But he could not rid his mind of the lingering erotic images of Hoshiko and Miyako lovingly tending to his manhood.
With one final shake of the head, he entered the dining room. The first thing he noticed was that his father had brought in entertainment for the Vanderhousens. A soothing melody played from the side of the room, a troupe of musicians consisting of cellos, violins, and flutes. The room was a rich paneled oak with crystal chandelier overhead. At the far end of the room were a series of resplendent windows, large glass panes not available to the layman. They opened to a balcony overlooking the courtyard below
And below those windows was his father, the Lord of Vasherton.
His father was a tall frail man with an imposing scowl. He had a severely receding hairline with snow white hair and a well-trimmed goatee. He had a hawkish nose and thin tight lips. His face was gaunt, with high cheek-bones and deep-set blue eyes. John had never met another man with a more intimidating aura than his father.
Sitting to the right of his father was a well dressed woman with dirty blonde hair, that appeared to be in her early fifties. Her eyes were dark and fierce, and zeroed in on him as soon as he had entered the room. She had a light scar on her chin, a long thin line that flowed down past her chin and onto her throat. A deep red dress with white lace adorned her. He knew exactly who that was.
To her side was her daughter, a very uncomfortable looking young woman with a faint resemblance to her mother, dressed in a similar red dress, though with smaller sleeves and gold trim. She had a strong jaw, aquiline nose, and tight pursed lips. She wasn’t altogether unattractive, but she very obviously did not want to be there. John flit his eyes back to her mother, gave a smile, and bowed.
“Lady Vanderhousen! So glad you could join us! Its quite the pleasant surprise, my father had suggested it might take another week for your ship to come to port.”
“Yes, well. I have an excellent captain, and we had a strong wind. I thought we might use the opportunity to meet a little earlier than we planned. Of course, I hadn’t expected my daughter to be here waiting for me, so in that I suppose we were all pleasantly surprised.”
John’s father cleared his throat, interrupting his son.
“Yes, very pleasant tidings all around. Now, son, please come sit at the table, no need to jabber on from the door.”
John gave a slight bow to his father and came to his left side, sitting down with all the grace and poise that had been beaten into him over the years. He briefly noticed they had brought out the special plates, the silver ones encrusted with diamonds. He swallowed deeply as the importance of this meeting truly hit home. He attempted vainly to bring some light-hearted chattering to the table, but Lady Vanderhousen was the only one to respond, and even then, only in simple one word answers. Eventually he fell silent as their first course was served.
It was a light tomato basil soup, with a small crispy loaf of bread lightly salted and buttered. He was pleasantly surprised, this dish being one of his favorites. Was this coincidence or was his father buttering him up? As they ate their meal in silence, John’s father finally began to speak.
“So, John. I heard you went to the dungeons today. With Silas no less.”
“Ah. Yes. Yes, I did.”
His father leveled a cool look his way, and spoke in a cold monotone.
John hesitated, not wanting to acquiesce to his father’s curiosity. But he knew now was neither the time nor the place.
He was interrupted by a painful sounding cough. He turned his eyes to his father, who was coughing and hacking violently into a red handkerchief. It lasted uncomfortably long, so much so, John began to fear his father may collapse. The band continued to play, the flute and violins interrupted every few seconds by a painful wheeze. After what seemed like a few minutes his father regained control of himself and put away his handkerchief. John realized from the slight discoloration, that there was reason his father had chosen red.
“Never mind that. Let’s get to the topic at hand. Lady Vanderhousen, I’m glad you could join us so early.”
“As am I Lord Vasher. As am I.”
John let his mind wander as the two family heads exchanged courtesies and political news. His eyes drifted to Bernice once more, to his…fiancé.
“So, Bernice, its nice to meet you. How was your trip with Silas?”
She gave him a sideways glance, but otherwise ignored him and went back to her soup. He sighed, not really feeling like prodding further. He wished the monsters were invading quicker. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with all of this. But at least they would be invading soon enough that he wouldn’t have to actually marry her. He returned to his own soup, and finished it rather quickly.
The second course was roasted duck with a garlic and onion sauce, a side dish of scalloped potatoes and a light salad accompanied it. He accepted his plate graciously, and continued to avoid conversation. If the rest of the evening went like this, then there would be no problems.
“-Actually, Lord Vasher I was thinking of rescheduling the wedding to the end of this week. I’ve heard ill rumors of trouble brewing in Albion, and I need to get there as quick as possible. If-”
John stopped eating when he heard that. He noticed Bernice did too. But rather than being shocked to silence, She spoke her mind.
“NO! Mother that’s enough! You-You- Ugh!”
She stood up from the table and stormed off, shoving a servant that had gotten in her way. Lady Vanderhousen excused herself as she went after her daughter. John caught the eye of his father, who seemed to be quietly chuckling.
“Well, boy. Seems she’s not exactly thrilled with you eh?”
He fell into a coughing fit as he laughed. John rubbed his temples, as he spoke.
“Father, did she even know why she was coming to this city?”
As his father calmed down, he wiped a bit of blood off his mouth and resumed his steeled demeanor.
“Hm. She knew her mother was arranging something, I’m sure. She probably didn’t know the job with Silas was a ruse, no. She’s pig-headed, from what Lady Vanderhousen has told me. Doesn’t want to marry anyone. Foolish thinking that. Monsters will outbreed us at this rate. Young women just don’t seem to understand anymore. Their most important function is raising up the new generation. Her mother learned that too late, or she’d have siblings.”
“So then, why am I an only child?”
“Because I couldn’t bring myself to take on another wife after your mother. Don’t be capricious, son. It doesn’t suite you.”
“My apologies. I’ve been… nervous about today. It’s odd thinking she had no idea who I was while I fretted and worried.”
“Hn. Well, you’ll both have plenty of time to get to know each other after the wedding. I don’t need to remind you how important it is we reestablish our family fortune. We’re lucky the Vanderhousen house agreed to our proposal. And you know…”
John gave a level look to his father.
“The girl isn’t too bad on the eyes.”
John gave a little chuckle. It was nice to see his father joking around.
The doors to the room slammed open with a very angry looking Bernice storming in and her mother seemed none too pleased either.
“Bernice, don’t you dare!”
The girl pointed a finger at John, a fire in her eye.
“I challenge you to a duel. If you win, I’ll go through with this stupid marriage. If not, you live with your shame and I go my separate way.”
“Bernice Von Vanderhousen! I forbid you-” Bernice stuck a finger out at her mother accusingly.
“No! Not again! I’m my own person dammit! You don’t control me! I am a soldier of the Order, not someone’s plaything.”
There was silence among the table, only the flutes and violins continued to play. That is, until John Vasher Senior dismissed them with a wave of his hand. The music cut out and they left hurriedly through the servants’ entrance. John didn’t know what to do. This was the first time he’d ever been challenged to a duel, and he wasn’t exactly expecting his fiancé to be the one to challenge him. Especially not tonight. As the silence went on, Bernice’s cheeks flushed bright red; out of embarrassment, anger, or both, John didn’t know.
“Well, son. What do you say? Think you can out-duel your bride-to-be?” Lord Vasher said, a smirk on his face.
Bernice shot him a scowl, which earned her mother’s continued ire.
“Bernice, you stop this foolishness at once, its unladylike. And its already been decided. You don’t get to back out now.”
“You decided! I didn’t decide anything! Where is my choice?! Its my future too!”
John didn’t know why, but something about the way she said that, just struck a nerve in him. He stood up, causing the others in the room to go silent.
“I apologize that you were brought to the city under false pretenses. I apologize that you were given little, if any say in these affairs. But please, show some decorum. Do you think I had a choice in this? Do you think I jumped at the chance to marry a woman I am just now meeting for the first time?! I understand your frustrations, I do! It’s the same frustrations every highborn feels. This is not the first or last time an arranged marriage has been foisted on young nobility. I ask you, stop acting as if the world revolves around you!”
Bernice stared at him with unhidden shock. As if no one had ever spoken to her like that before. He doubted that of course, he was sure her mother spoke like that at length, and often. Lady Vanderhousen made to sit back in her seat, a smirk on her face. However, It didn’t seem like the outburst was done just yet.
“If you don’t want to marry me, and I don’t want to marry you. Then why should we?!”
We won’t, he thought to himself. But he couldn’t reveal everything he knew to his father. Or anyone, really. Not without being arrested for high-treason. But he needed to play along with the day to day politics of the court so as not to arouse suspicion. And even if this seemed so incredibly important to Bernice, the truth was this was just another day in high society.
“Because, we’re nobility. We were born with special privileges, and special burdens. We don’t always have the luxury to do as we please. There are protocols to follow, games to be played, parents to honor…”
He shot a look at his father, who seemed rather amused by the entire show. Lady Vanderhousen looked pleased, but curious, a quirked eyebrow her most obvious response. He turned his gaze back to Bernice, hoping she was done with her outburst.
“I promise, it won’t be unpleasant. If you can’t stand the sight of me, the castle is big enough you won’t have to until our, uh… marital duties.”
Bernice turned red, and her mother held back a chuckle. John’s father let out a loud boisterous laugh that degenerated into coughing and wheezing into his red handkerchief.
“Well boy, it’s nice to see some spine from you once in a while! Now that all that is over and done with, I suppose we ought to discuss the finer details. Property management and all that. Now Lady Vanderou-”
Once more the room looked towards Bernice. However, this time Lord Vasher did not seem amused.
“Sit down girl. This has all been decided long ago. If you think this little outburst is going to accomplish anything, you’re quite wrong. You aren’t the first girl to throw a temper tantrum over her betters deciding her future.”
But Bernice didn’t sit down, she scowled hard at the patriarch seething. John didn’t like this. Was she really so adamant about this? The ironic thing was if she just waited, she wouldn’t have to. He could push the wedding off until the invasion, he knew the right arguments to make. But if this girl kept pushing his father’s buttons…
“Well, girl. I propose a counter. Duel me! You win, and I annul the marriage and even talk to a few of my contacts in the church. You’ll get promoted, and out of your responsibility. You can go die in a field of battle and end your family line just as you like.” He held up a finger, “But, If I win, the wedding commences tonight, and you’ll be producing grandchildren as quickly as you can, with no waiting period.”
John did not like the sound of that. Suddenly all his plans were being destroyed, and he began to panic. He looked with wide eyes at Lady Vanderhousen, but she seemed amused at the prospect. She even gave a light chuckle. He flit his eyes towards Bernice, hoping she wouldn’t go through with it.
John’s jaw dropped.
“W-wait, let’s not rush into this! Bernice, you don’t know what you’re doing! Father, I beg you, don’t-”
“Quiet boy. She made her decision. I’m off to get ready. We’ll duel in the courtyard, just under the balcony here. Son, go get your finest clothes on. The one’s we had imported from Polove before it was taken. And, my dearest Lady Vanderhousen,” He looked at the older woman with a smile on his face. “Would you tell my servants to prepare the ceremony in the ballroom for me? I’d like to do this quick.”
Lady Vanderhousen nodded, a smirk on her face. She left the room in short order, sparing a pitying glance at her daughter.
John just stared at a smiling Bernice, unbelieving. Was she unaware of just what his father could do? Even in his sickness, she didn’t stand a chance. It was with a start he realized he and she were the only ones left in the room, His father had left to prepare.
“Are you INSANE?!”
“My father has never lost a duel in his entire life! If you had just waited a little longer-”
“Don’t get mad at me! You weren’t doing anything! You were just going to lie down and take it like the coward you are! And why are so worried about? He’s just a frail old man!”
Bernice stormed out of the room in a huff, frustrated and red in the face. John let out a low moan and slammed his fist on the table. She was ruining everything! If she would just act like a rational human being!
Suddenly, John heard a tapping noise coming from his where his father had been
Curious, he got up and walked over. As he began investigating his father’s chair, he heard the tapping again, this time he recognized it was outside, a tapping on the window, on the balcony. After a quick look around to make sure no one was there, he stepped outside.
The air was cold outside on the balcony. John shivered as a frigid blast of air hit him square on. It had been such a pleasant day, what had brought this on? He looked about in the darkness, unable to see anything but the candlelight flickering down below in the courtyard. The servants were already lighting the lampposts in preparation for the duel. He shook his head at the idiocy of it all. Why couldn’t she just keep a calm head? From the corner of his eye, he caught movement, and found himself face to face with Hoshiko and Miyako.
He was cut off as Hoshiko placed a finger on his lips.
Miyako wasted no time in jumping forward and embracing John, pressing her body close to him. John returned the embrace after a few moments. He could feel his body react to her and his mind begin to fog. He gently pushed her away before he did something that would get them caught.
“What are you two doing here?”
“Apologies, Master, but we were worried. We wanted to be close by in case something happened.” Said Hoshiko.
“Oh, John-kun, we overheard… How likely is that woman to win?” said Miyako with a concerned face.
“Very unlikely. She thinks my father’s a frail old man, but he has special powers that can overcome his body. It may not be able to heal sickness, but it can heal old age well enough. If things continue to go this way, I’m likely to be in the bed chamber with her come morning.”
The two sisters shared a look.
“John-kun, do you trust us?”
“Hai, master, do you trust us?”
The way they said that gave John pause. What were they thinking? He hesitantly nodded his head. He had committed treason the moment he didn’t alert his father that they had contacted him. Of course he trusted them. They seemed joyous at his confirmation, and in quick succession gave him a peck on the lips.
All of a sudden John began to feel very woozy. His forehead began to sweat and his vision began to blur. Through bleary eyes he saw his two lovers smile serenely at him as he fell face first into pleasant slumber.