A lot happens in these vital chapters. Allegiances shift, people change, lines are drawn. And a lot more sex scenes are going to be going down! As always, if you’d like to support me, or can’t wait for my updates, the whole book is available to purchase here.
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Chapter 18: David vs Silas
David looked at Arsa in bewilderment.
“He has two of them swooning over him? Don’t they get angry over that?”
“Not as far as I can tell, they’re sisters, so they get along rather well. And polygamous relationships aren’t uncommon in monster society. If you love someone, you love someone. It’s you humans that make everything so complicated.”
David looked at her as if she had sprouted a second head.
“That statement is wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to start. But, ignoring it for the time being. If he’s being abducted, then does that mean his cover was blown? Will that set your kind back on taking the city?”
Arsa shrugged in her armor and cast a glance at the troops who stormed past, not noticing their lord was above them.
“Probably not. It does make it harder, but I wouldn’t know by how much. I’m not privy to that sort of intel. Regardless, we still need to leave. The gates are probably closed, but we can still scale the wall.”
David gave her a look of incredulity.
“And how are we to do that? It’s at a 90 degree angle. Not to mention fifty feet high!”
“Oh, a girl has her ways,” She said with a smirk as she playfully caressed his cheek.
Just as he was about to ask her to stop she pulled away and gave him one last wink before heading off toward the wall. David, not wanting to be left behind chased after her. The snow howled on either side of them, and they could hear the bellows and calls from the guardsman who had just caught sight of the kunoichi dashing across the rooftops. David spared a glance to see them chase after, and a few even begin climbing atop houses to better pursue. He briefly admired their tenacity before turning his attention to his own flight from the city.
He and Arsa were now at the base of the wall. It was dark here, away from the buildings and lampposts. Out of sight from the multitudes, Arsa shed her disguise, and Yuurazha slid off of David, forming a body for herself once again. Though she left the satchel, slippers, and cloak on his person.
“So now what? Is there a secret door you came through, or something?” Said David rather loudly over the screaming winds.
“No, not quite.” Arsa said with a grin.
Before David could ask more questions, Yuura held Arsa’s hands, and as she let go, two goopy globules remained behind in Arsa’s hands. She grabbed on to the wall and with little effort began to climb up the sheer surface. The globules, on contact with the wall, spread out in hundreds of little tendrils, gripping the rock face securely. Awed, David didn’t notice Yuura grab his own hands, imparting the same globs. He didn’t have time to respond as Yuura shaped herself into a long snake-like creature and began slithering up the wall with ease, easily catching up to Arsa, and then surpassing her.
With naught else to do but go after them, David began to climb as well. He found the sensation of the goo reforming under his hands a rather intriguing one, the root-like tendrils seeping out like water on contact with the wall and retracting as he lifted his hand. He had worried at first that he would not have the strength to scale the wall, but realized it was much easier when Yuurazha’s goop was gripping the wall, allowing him to save his strength.
He didn’t match the pace of his monstrous companions, but he still climbed deftly, clearing over ten feet up the wall before the snow and wind had him shivering. He couldn’t see the top of the wall, it was too dark, but he could still see Arsa and Yuura making their ways up. His limbs ached, his face stung, and as he followed dutifully, he made the mistake of looking down.
The hard ground below was farther off than he thought, and his head spun at the dizzying height. He became acutely aware of a previously unknown fear. He was deathly afraid of heights.
David froze at his spot, unable to take his eyes off the ground far below, beckoning him to come back. Quickly.
He felt bile at the back of his throat and a bought of nausea. All at once the ground seemed to flee from him, and he seemed higher than ever before. A lump formed in his throat and he could no longer move. He could hear someone beckoning him from far away, but he couldn’t bear to face them, the ground’s call was too enticing.
Suddenly he felt a hand on his cheek, forcibly turning him away from the ground below. It was Arsa, a look of concern on her face. No teasing smile, or self-satisfied smirk, just concern. She wiped away a strand of hair and placed her palm across his forehead. He relaxed, ever so slightly, and felt a rush of calm.
“You ok?” she said, sounding genuinely worried.
“Yeah.” He managed to choke out. “Never been this high before. Its… a little overwhelming.”
“It’s alright, we’re almost over.”
“Yeah, until we get to the top and have to scale it again.”
“Going down is always easier.”
David made to say some snide remark, but let it die on his lips. He nodded and looked up, not making the mistake of looking down again. However, even as he was lifting his hand to begin anew, he was blinded by a brilliant explosion that from the feel of heat on his face, had just gone off not ten feet from him. Had he not been using Yuurazha’s odd slimy gloves, he would have fallen to his death.
Arsa was not as disoriented as he, but giving her a quick look over, he saw a look of horror on her face. He followed her gaze and saw why she was so terrified. Indeed, he was beginning to feel rather terrorized himself.
Some thirty feet below was Silas, a glowing red fireball in his hand, a dozen armored men beside him with arrows pointed in his direction. Silas yelled something at the men and unleashed the fireball with overwhelming force. The impact was once more close enough that David could feel the heat bearing down on him, and the impact was so severe he could feel the wall shake under his grasp. Yuura rapidly slithered down to him and Arsa as a barrage of arrows began skewering the wall in a deadly rain. David could do little more than hold on tight. The clamoring from below began to turn into a tumultuous roar as the throng only seemed to grow larger. Arrows flew in the air as often as snow, and it was only thanks to the wind that they ended up missing their targets.
“What are we going to do!?! We’re sitting ducks up here!” shouted David in a well-deserved panic.
“I don’t know! I didn’t-” She cut herself off as she quickly let go of the wall and dropped suddenly to avoid another massive fireball, this one scorching the stone as it dissipated.
David closed his eyes as he held on to the shaking wall underneath him. He spared a glance to check that Arsanggha was alright. But did not dwell long on her. The ground below once more beckoned and he felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. A scream from Yuura brought his attention upwards. But then a blinding light stole his attention away from her.
A fireball larger than the others rocketed towards him, searing itself into his vision. Time seemed to slow as it came closer and closer, the heat making him sweat. In a bid of self-preservation, he willed himself to let go of the wall.
In an instant he fell like a stone, narrowly dodging the flames as they scorched the wall, and spread out in a deadly wave of fire. The wall shook with such force that David was sure it would fall. More arrows whizzed by his face, he could hear them clink against the wall and the stone below. He reached for a place to grab hold, as Arsa did, but as the blackish purple slime shot forth, a green bolt of energy severed it in twain.
Eyes wide as saucers, heart dropping to the pit of his stomach, David fell to the Stoney ground below.
In a flash, Yuura pulsated outward into a thin, snake-like tendril, wrapping around David multiple times as every inch of her body covered him in a protective bubble. He hit the ground hard, and bits of Yuura flew everywhere. David still felt as if he had fallen from a great height, and was horribly sore, but he was alive. For that he was grateful.
Before he could thank Yuura, however, he was surrounded on all sides by armored men, and he could hear a “tap tap tapping” come closer and closer. The men parted ways, and from the gloom emerged an irate Silas, knarled wooden staff in hand. His eyes glowed with a menacing green light. David was none too pleased to see him but was so cold and bruised nothing escaped his lips. He managed to return Silas’s frightful glare, though it lacked much impact thanks to his prone position.
Silas glared down at him with unhidden disgust.
“Just when I was beginning to think I’d acted rashly, you pull this. Tell me, boy. Where is he? If you speak quickly, I may be able to spare you the gallows.”
David knew he was speaking about John Vasher junior but decided to play dumb. After all, he wasn’t responsible for John’s flight, and he wouldn’t be able to help Silas even if he wanted to. And he very much did not.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
Silas didn’t even blink. He lifted up the palm of his hand and bathed David in a lightning storm that lit up the street in a pulsating blue glow. David howled with pain as electricity crawled over him and bit deep inside his innards. It was an intense fiery pain both unique and wretched. He could still feel his muscles twitching as the power was released. As he cracked opened his eyes, he could see his hands wafting a thin trail of smoke into the night air.
“I’ve little patience for idiocy tonight. I will ask one more time, and if you fail to help, I’ll have these men escort you back to the castle, and torture you truly. No more glasses of water, or other such rubbish. Ripped off fingernails, hot pincers tearing off your tongue, breaking your legs with a hammer, and so on and so forth. But if you’d like to play the tough mercenary, then by all means. But before you do, ask yourself why?
“Why am I being tortured? Because, for whatever reason, I thought I should help humanity’s eternal enemy because it sprouted tits. Because, rather than remain loyal to god-fearing folk, I wanted to ‘talk’ to a unicorn, and galivant with a talking pile of black sludge. Because I wanted to spurn the very man who saved my life and insult his generosity!”
David remained silent as he took in Silas’s words. He briefly felt ashamed. The words stung. But then, of course, reality as he knew it came to him.
“You wonder why I’m not tripping over myself to help you? Really? When the first bit of trouble hit you, who did you blame? What was your first reaction? Did you sit me aside and ask me as a friend would? Or did you arrest me, strip me of my possessions, and sic a twisted greasy man with a penchant for torture after me?
“Maybe I’m making a mistake. But don’t act like the all-wise sage! You’re a bitter old elf who makes enemies of good men! Don’t act so innocent!”
Silas didn’t care for that response and signaled for the men to move in and take David. But David was ready.
He reached into the satchel that was hidden under his body and grabbed the first two bottles he fumbled with. As the men got close enough to pull him to his feet, David pulled out the two bottles, and smashed them on the ground below. No one was prepared. A powerful wave of water pushed the soldiers away, and a tremor in the earth caused the bowman to miss David by the nearest of inches. Silas was knocked to the ground, as well, just as surprised as his men.
David could feel power pulsating through his body, unlike anything he’d ever felt before.
His own eyes went wide, and his mouth went agape at the feeling of power flowing through his veins. The water elemental was in his right hand, and the earth elemental was in his left. He could feel them, pulsating with life. Emotions ran through him, of longing, desire, loneliness, and rapture. They came to him in waves. He had wielded magic before, of course, but this was something different. It was like he had been painting with mittens and a brush ten-feet long. Now, the mittens were off, and he had dipped his fingers in the paint, and had more control and raw energy than he knew what to do with.
The men got their bearing rather quickly and rushed him with a newfound fervor. Arrows flew true and without thinking, David brought up a hand in reflex. Abruptly, thick earthen walls sprouted forth from the ground, the arrows embedding themselves deeply. The men wasted no time in re-notching their bows. With a thought, David pulled them down into the earth, only their heads showing.
“Woah” David said, awed at himself.
He could feel pleasure emanating from the earth elemental, which still twisted and turned as a sphere in his left hand. But he got the distinct impression that it wanted to take on a different form but was too weak to do so.
David was snapped out of his thoughts by Silas, who was quite furious, bellowing his indignation.
“I should never have freed you from that stony prison! You’re a damned traitor and a thief! I know where you got that gnome and undine! Even worse, you’re a kidnapper! A traitor! You’ve doomed us all, and for what?!!”
David had had about enough of that. He outstretched his right hand, meaning to cast a spell, but no sooner had he thought about what he wanted to do did it happen, the water elemental responding to his thoughts.
A powerful stream of pressurized water shot forth, straight at Silas. He ceased his rant and cast a shield spell, splitting the water among an invisible dome surrounding him. He chanted in an elven tongue and let go of his gnarled wooden staff.
It hung in the air and began to give off a glowing emerald-green smoke. Silas’s eyes glowed the same shade of green, and he moved his hands in odd patterns. David held up his hands ready to defend at a moment’s notice. Without warning great wooden spikes erupted from the ground, twisted and gnarled, in a straight line meant for David. With a wave, David shot upwards as an earthen column rose from under him, taking the brunt of the assault.
In retaliation, David concentrated, and held out both hands, stopping the falling snow in its tracks. It gathered together in clumps of hail, and with a forward motion, began to barrage Silas’s invisible barrier. The hail bounced harmlessly off, not even creating a dent. With a twitch of Silas’s finger, thick wooden roots began climbing up the earthen column, deadly pointed spikes erupting from it all the while. David, in a panic, jumped off the pillar moments before the roots could skewer him in place.
With a thought, the snow gathered into a floating icy disk, catching him, and keeping him from Silas’s deadly plants. He had little time to move as Silas swept his arms in a wide arc, and the green smoke began to twist and turn. Before David’s eyes, the smoke took the shape of a small snake-like dragon, eyes glowing the same green as Silas’s. With a roar, the smoky dragon let loose a blast of putrid green mist.
Everything the mist touched disintegrated, the roots, the earth, and the stone road. David flew upwards on his icy platform, out of reach of the deadly smog. But, with a twist of Silas’s wrist and whispered word, the draconic cloud snapped its head in David’s direction and chased after him. Despite the life or death chase, David was quite excited to have so much control over the element of water with naught but his thoughts. John had given him an excellent gift.
As he twisted and turned in the air, snow blinding him half the time, he avoided Silas’s faux dragon at every turn. He could see the elf angrily chanting spells down below, but to no avail. Remembering Yuura and Arsa, David looked over the field in apprehension, hoping the two were okay.
Yuura was still reforming in the darkness, her glowing lime-green orbs the only thing revealing where she was. She wasn’t quite recovered but was most certainly getting there. Arsa, David found, was missing entirely. He couldn’t see her at all.
As he held on to the slippery disk under his feet, turning from another corrosive blast, he brought the snow in the storm to form large heavy spikes of ice. He showered Silas once more in icy debris, but this time, Silas had to concentrate to keep his shield from failing. As he brought his full attention to his defense, his smoky green dragon dissipated, and blew away.
The blizzard was getting worse, and although David was moving, he could feel the chill down to his bones. He wanted to end this fast.
With a thought, he brought up two giant earthen hands from the ground, one on either side of Silas. The old elf, startled, renewed his spell of protection as the two hands slammed shut around him, shattering the old shield, but not able to break the new. David made his way back to the ground. With another wave of his hand, he encased the two earthen hands in a sphere of polished ice. He could feel a thrum of pleasure emanate from the water elemental in his right hand as he did so.
“Yuura! Arsa! I don’t think that’ll hold him long! C’mon, we’ve got to go!”
He strained his eyes in the dark, trying to make out if either of the two were coming. He could hear the soldiers he had encased in earth struggle, the howling winds, and the ice he had encased Silas in begin to crack. But he didn’t hear from Yuura or Arsa. Frustrated he jumped off the ice disk and let it melt into a puddle while running to where he had last seen Yuurazha.
He found she was still mostly a pile of goo, though quite a bit of slime was making its way across the ground and merging with her. Remembering his satchel was also a part of her, he dropped it into the pile, letting it dissolve back into its master. As he did so, two pretty little green eyes popped up in the goo. Yuura’s head popped up, though rather slowly. David noticed that she was moving rather sluggishly. Was it the cold?
“Oh, David sir! You’re okay! I was worried. Oh! You let out the gnome and undine. Guess things are getting bad huh?”
“Yeah, pretty bad, we need to go. My spell-work won’t hold Silas long. Are you alright? Can you move?”
She jiggled in place, stretching her body out and upward. It seemed to take her a great deal of effort. Deciding it was taking too long, David lifted a large amount of earth out of the ground and formed it into a bowl. He grabbed her in big piles and placed her inside. As he scooped up the last piece he looked about for more of her but could see nothing in the darkness.
“Is that all? I feel like I missed some…”
“Please sir, don’t worry about it. I’ll grow it back, we need to get out of here, as you said!”
Nodding, David willed the bowl to float over the ground ever so gently and trudged toward the wall. As he approached the base, he thrust his hands forward. The wall in front of him began to open up, a circular tunnel, just big enough for two men to stride abreast. He turned back, one more time, to try and find Arsanggha.
Instead he saw a silver stag about to gore him.
David leapt out of the way just in the nick of time. The sparkling silver stag snorting in fury in the night air. Silas stood behind the spell in a rage, firing off several spells in rapid succession, firebolts, lightning strikes, and spectral creatures came at David in a rampage of death.
David, however, was alert and ready, and was able to meet every spell with a counter. He brought up swirling shields of snow to stop the fire in its tracks and shot up walls of earth to stop every shot of lightning. The beasts were gored with spikes of ice and stone aplenty, returning to the ethereal vapor from whence they came.
David could see Silas was both frustrated and not at all ready to be matched so evenly. Soon, David pressed the attack, taking a step forward and unleashing tendrils of water, grasping hands of earth, and sudden sinkholes. Silas, not the most agile of creatures, relied on his magic rather than his reflexes to save him from these. Green and silver light flashed in the darkness, met with earth and water at every step.
David was tired, but he did not let up until Silas himself did. Sweat froze on his brow as he stared down the elf, who seemed nearly as tired.
“Well, it seems you’re a quick learner. I’ve never seen anyone bond with an elemental that fast before. Let alone two.” Silas quipped.
“I’ve been wielding magic my entire adult life, and much of my childhood. If anything, the elementals make it easier.”
“Too bad they aren’t yours.”
“I’d tell you a story… but something tells me you wouldn’t believe me, and possibly strap me down on a table in a dungeon for it.”
Silas didn’t bother responding. Instead, he hoisted his staff up and began to recite a spell in old elvish. David narrowed his eyes and prepared himself. But before Silas could finish his casting, his eyelids began to droop, his snarl began to wane, and his arms sunk back down to his sides. David, not wasting the opportunity, sunk the elf into the ground just as he had done to the soldiers.
Rather than become startled, Silas closed his eyes and began to sleep in the dirt.
David, curious, was surprised to feel a tapping on his shoulder. Turning his head, he found Arsa, smiling with her tentacled hair wiggling in satisfaction.
“We did it! Great job distracting him! I knew we could do it!”
She leaped forward and gave him a tight hug he wasn’t quite ready for, nearly bowling him over.
“So, I guess you’re the reason he let his guard down, huh? Put him to sleep too?” David asked, a little bemused at her enthusiasm.
“I could take all the credit, sweetheart, but that wouldn’t be honest~. Good job with the undine and the gnome! I’ve never seen anyone bond that quickly before! Guess you really are a wizard huh? Very nice!”
“It’s nice to be appreciated. Now come on, let’s get Yuura and get out of here before more guards show up.”
Arsa nodded her head and let go of him, deftly picking up the earthen bowl that held her compatriot. As Arsa and Yuura were working to recreate their climbing technique, David held up a hand in a stopping motion before facing the wall and, with a forceful gesture, opened up a tunnel to the other side.
“Oh. Right. Good idea, Sweetheart. Forgot about that.” Arsa said, impressed.
David gave the two odd women a smile as the two elementals began to move away from his hands, and instead swirled about his head. He got the distinct impression that they were proud of him. With a final look back on the defeated elf and his soldiers, he felt a smug satisfaction he hadn’t felt in a long time as he took his leave of Vasherton.
Chapter 19: Joining the Monsters
David trudged through the snow at a comfortable pace. He was no longer freezing, Yuurazha having left her bowl and now wrapped around him in the form of a heavy coat. And, at his request, made it purple. The two elementals, an undine and a gnome Arsa told him, orbited him lazily. The snow was still falling heavily, but he could not feel the wind under the thicket of trees they travelled. Arsa was moving slower, her tentacles not made for trudging. David had offered to go without Yuura’s coat, but the mindflayer had declined. They didn’t talk much on the trip. Though David got the impression that was more because they were tired than a general dislike of conversation. Especially since they had been so friendly while breaking him out of the dungeon.
That was something that brought his mind back to the matter at hand, meeting Ophelia and Delilah again. He’d only met the demon once, but she had made an impression. Ophelia he had endured torture for. And ultimately, it was her fault all this had taken place. He thought he should be mad at her, she had stolen from him, used him. But Delilah had sent these two to fetch him, and without their help he’d have been trapped there for however long Silas wished. Devon, Danny, and Kris weren’t going to save him.
In all, David’s emotions were confused. He had been ready to go on a series of quests to fetch Silas’s magic artifacts just a few weeks ago. Now he was marching into a den of monsters, embroiled in political intrigue, branded a traitor to humanity, and he very well could be.
He liked Ophelia, but what if that was the point? What if he had been blinded by some sort of monster magic? He remembered well Silas’s talk about the demographic doom the world over because of these buxom female monsters. Less and less men, more and more monsters, eventually there would be no men to make more men, and the monsters themselves would die out. Ophelia could have just been playing him, an agent for the demon Delilah. Who was to say this wasn’t precisely her plan? That he had been played for a fool, and that John Vasher junior had been as well? Who was to say?
But, even with those thoughts in his head, they just didn’t seem likely to him. He’d have a few questions for Ophelia for sure, Delilah too. But he felt more relaxed and calm than paranoid and fearful. After escaping Vasherton in a magical duel like the old days and bonding with not one, but two elementals, he was feeling rather upbeat.
They had crossed a great deal of land now and were under the trees past the fields of the farmers. David wasn’t worried about anyone coming after them. The snow was still falling and was covering their tracks.
“So, Arsa, are we almost there?”
“Close. They’ve been moving up on the city for the past few days. They meant to unleash a surprise attack but that won’t be happening anymore.”
“Yeah, not with those two, kun-kun-ku?” David fumbled on the foreign word.
“Kunoichi.” Arsa said, a smile on her lips.
“Right, Kunoichi. Not with them kidnapping John Vasher junior last night. And of course, not with you two breaking me out, either. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re preparing for a siege right now.”
“Naruko is going to be mad.” Yuura said, a melancholy tone to her voice.
“Who’s Naruko?” David said into his jacket, Yuura’s face popping out with a curious look of satisfaction.
“One of Delilah’s four generals. They’re in charge of the invasion. Naruko was the one in charge of dealing with Lord Vasher.”
“Shouldn’t she have focused on Vasher senior? He’ll be the one with any real power.”
“Sorry, I wouldn’t know much about that.”
David made small talk with the two as they journeyed. It had been a long harrowing night, and while he should have been bone dead tired, he couldn’t help but feel refreshed. The memories of the towering heights, the drowning, he pushed them from his mind with the image of Silas, defeated at his hands. He remembered the night as if it were a dream it had all happened so fast. He had been having a bath and enjoying time with Bernice just yesterday.
“Crazy how fast things change.” He muttered to himself.
Arsa, not knowing what he was talking about, commented on the snow.
“Hmm. It is odd. It’s still summer, so I think it might be unnatural in some way.”
“Wha-? Oh! Yes, I thought the same last night. Funny, it seems so beautiful now, but it was hell just a few hours ago.”
“Aww, you didn’t like our first date?” Arsa said with a sly smile.
David just smiled back.
“Oh, it started out pretty bad, but that ending was something to remember.”
“Just wait until our next one~”
David was getting used to the constant flirting. He didn’t think it was serious, but it had still disconcerted him at first. However, Arsa was relentless, and Yuura would just stay silent throughout. So it was up to him to just get used to it. And get used to it he did. It was an odd sensation, he wasn’t exactly used to anyone flirting with him, serious or not. But he had to admit, it did make him feel special.
“So, Arsa, you and Yuura… how did you meet?” David asked with a slight smile.
“Oh we’ve been friends since we were little girls in the Underworld.”
“You two lived in the Underworld? I’ve been there before, terrifying place. I prefer to have the sky open to me.”
“It’s not so bad. It felt nice and cozy to me. Like the earth was keeping you close to her bosom.”
David raised an eyebrow at the curious simile. Arsa was an odd one, but he found he liked her.
“Yuura,” David said, looking at his warm coat, “how about you? How did you like the Underworld?”
Yuura’s face popped out of the coat, a wet sheen to her angelic appearance. She looked up at him with a smile and wide bright green eyes.
“I liked some places. I disliked others. I was happy when I came to the Overworld, there’s so many interesting flowers, lights, and smells. And I got to meet you dear sir! So I’m very happy I left.”
Arsa gave Yuura a cheeky grin.
“Don’t get too fond of him, Yuura. Remember, we’re delivering him to his unicorn friend.”
“You know we aren’t engaged or anything. I don’t belong to her.”
Arsa shuffled ahead of him and shot him a smirk.
“Maybe not. But Delilah ordered us not to seduce you just in case. Of course, I suppose she didn’t count on you gaining those two.” She pointed to the earthen and liquid spheres orbiting him “I do wonder how that will change things.”
“Why would they matter?”
“Take a closer look at them sweetie.”
David rolled his eyes but did so. He willed the earthen one, the gnome he had learned, to come before him. The ball came obediently, and he took hold of it, examining it. It seemed rather normal to him, as far as elementals go, anyway. It felt like soft mud, but not slimy, rather, soft and pliable. There were green lush vines running in and out of the sphere as well. Occasionally a leaf bud was growing on a vine. David was about to let go of the earth elemental when two large eyes opened in the ball and stared at him.
He dropped the sphere on reflex, startled at the eyes.
The gnome did not fall to the ground however, but merely returned to orbiting around him.
“What was that?!”
David looked at the undine that circled him, curious if it too would sprout eyes.
It came to him that these elementals were not just alive in the broad sense, but that they were alive in the very specific sense that they may very well be aware of who he was, and what their relationship with him was.
Arsa laughed at the look on David’s face.
“What’s that look for? I thought you knew? The Overlord’s mana has changed everything. Even the elementals.”
“I thought they- I thought-” He didn’t even know what to say. He thought elementals weren’t monsters?
“Well, they aren’t shaped like women. So, I mean, it hasn’t changed them much has it? I mean, it could be they always had eyes.”
Arsa just continued smiling, not saying a word.
“Are you going to say something, or just continue smiling?”
“I think I’ll let you find out for yourself, sweetie.”
David was about to say something when a snowball hit him the face. As soon as he wiped the snow off, he was pelted again, and again. David brought up a snow wall with a twist of his wrist, to try and find out what was going on.
Yuura sloughed off of him, just as confused. David was a bit chilly without his Yuura-coat, but it wasn’t bad enough for him to complain.
“What was that, dear sir? Are you okay?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a prank by Arsa? To Change the subject?”
They were interrupted by Arsa moving next to them with snow on her face, and her usual smiling façade turned into a scowl.
“I think we’re close to the camp.” She said, seeming none too pleased.
“What makes you say-” David was hit in the face with another snowball.
He sent up another wall behind them, but all three of them were hit in the face regardless. Yuura was the only one to keep calm as David and Arsa began fuming. She covered the top of the little fortress with a cover of slimy film, chuckling all the while.
David heard a smaller voice giggling just outside their makeshift battlements. With a smirk, he sent a snowball flying in the direction of the giggles.
He heard a satisfying THWAK and let down the snow walls to get a good look at the culprit. He saw a little girl, scantily clad in a black leather bikini and boots writhing in the snow.
“You jerk! I was just having some fun! Didn’t have to be all mean!”
David took a double take when he realized the girl had blue skin, black sclera, and red eyes. With her horns, wings and tail, he thought she might be a demon child. Was she related to Delilah in some way?
“Trixie! It’s so good to see you again!” Arsa moved with lightning quickness and embraced the small demon child in a vice-like hug.
“You’re just as cute as ever!”
David could see plainly on the girl’s, Trixie’s, face, that she didn’t appreciate the affection.
“G-get off! I’m not a little kid!”
“Then what are you?.” David asked, as he approached with Yuura in tow.
The girl squirmed out of Arsa’s tentacled embrace and fell into the snow headfirst. She managed to recover with surprising quickness. She gave a David a look over, as if she were sizing him up. He felt a bit awkward standing there in his tunic and trousers. She was shorter than he was, but he still felt bare. After a few moments however, she gave a little smirk and floated up in the air and began circling him, occasionally caressing the two elementals orbiting him.
“Wow, you are handsome! Short though.”
“Uh. Thanks? Do I know you? And you didn’t answer my question.”
“No, you don’t know me. But I know you! Delilah’s been talking about you. We took in that unicorn for you too! No one told me you were so little though.”
“I’m not that short. Besides, you’re shorter than me.”
“I’m supposed to be short, you’re a man. Men are supposed to be tall.”
David was far from amused.
“Are you Delilah’s daughter, or something? You seem equally annoying.”
“Aw, you big flatterer! No, I’m older than Delilah. But she does seem like an old bat, huh? She never wants to have any fun! ‘Sides, I’m no demon. I’m a devil. Waaaay sexier.”
Arsa laid a tentacle over both their mouths.
“This is a fascinating conversation, but Trixie dear I’d appreciate it if you led us into camp. I assume you’re here to let us in and scout for enemies?”
The devil girl grinned and nodded. Arsa removed her tentacles in response. Trixie beckoned with her hand and floated in a direction deeper into the woods. David, Arsa, and Yuura followed after.
“I’ve been keepin’ an eye out for ya! Delilah said you’d be comin’. She was all nervous. Thought that Silas’d get cha!”
“Well,” David grimaced. “He did. They had to break me out. It’s quite the tale, really. Daring escape in the middle of the night, rampaging blizzard catching all unaware in the summer.”
Trixie floated up to David’s face with a puzzled look in her eyes, scratching her chin.
“Yeah, that is weird ain’t it?” She snapped her fingers as a look of realization hit her. “Hey! I know! I bet Calypso got the Ice Queen to come down the mountain! Geez, she’s been gone so long I’d forgotten all about it!”
Arsa shared an incredulous look with Yuura, though David only seemed confused.
“Ice Queen? Like one of the spirits of winter? Is this part of some plan on Delilah’s part? To weaken Lancaster for assault by bringing an early winter?”
Trixie looked at David with poorly concealed surprise.
“Wow. You’re pretty smart! No wonder Delilah likes you.”
That caught David’s attention.
“Likes me, does she? Likes how I’m playing into her hands I bet.”
“Nah, she likes how clever you are, and your cute butt.”
David missed the looks Yuura and Arsa shared, a look of concern and not a little bit of jealousy. Instead, his ears flushed, embarrassed at attention he was unused to.
“Right, after our one meeting, she could tell I was so very clever. The flattery of a devil is like poisoned sugar.”
Trixie seemed to take the remark rather offensively and pouted.
“You take that back! Here I am being so nice to you and you’re just being a big ol’ meanie!”
David thought to tell her off for throwing snowballs at his face but thought better of it. He was being petty, petty and paranoid. He calmed himself and looked anew at the devil, reminded himself it was a new world, with new rules, and tried his best to put his prejudice behind him.
“I-” he swallowed, finding it hard to get out the words. “I apologize, Trixie. I’m… holding on to outdated ideas.”
She looked at him with a curious expression before a look of clarity came upon her. She smiled widely, then flew in and kissed him on the nose before he could react. He made to push her away, but she had already flown back out of reach. She gave a giggle at his reaction.
“Ah… It’s ok. Delilah told me about the whole petrification thing. Jus’ forgot is all. Guess it must be pretty weird seein’ as we’re all sexy babes nowadays huh?”
Yuura and Arsa giggled at the sight of the squirming David, wiping the kiss off his nose, and from the corner of his eye, he thought he saw his two elementals giggling too.
“Yeah. It’s a little weird.”
After that, the trip was largely uneventful. Trixie led them through trails largely unnoticed by them, and under fallen trees David recognized as parts of a concealing charm. The path they were taking seemed to be the way the defensive charms let in outsiders and allowed them to pierce the protective illusions that must had been lain over the camp. Trixie explained that it was a recent measure, considering their proximity to Vasherton.
When David crossed over a frozen brook, he saw the first signs of the camp. A metal pole thrust into the ground, and on top of it a hook by which hung a flower pot filled with glowing flowers. It was a beauty to behold, unlike anything he’d ever seen before. A path was made clear by more hooked poles staked into the ground intermittently, flower pots with a curious flower inside. Beautiful five-petal flowers of pale lavenders, pinks, blues, and greens gave off a lustrous glow, bathing the snow in steady lights of many colors.
David couldn’t help but smile as his two elementals floated off on their own, exploring the flowers. He was slightly startled to find that they were no longer spherical but had grown the vague beginnings of limbs. He thought to tell Yuura and Arsa, but they were wrapped up in conversation with Trixie, and he remembered that they had been the ones to inform him of the elementals growing faces.
As they went on, David finally saw the camp. Immediately he was struck at the size of it. How he hadn’t heard the commotion or seen the lights, even in broad daylight, was a testament to the powerful concealing magic they had used.
The camp was not a stealthy affair. The tents were all brightly covered canvas, stripes of every color adorned them, with small flags atop lying dormant in the still air. All about were creatures of every shape and size, and all those shapes were alluring. He recognized old monsters even now with their new bodies. Harpies, lamia, dullahan, and even goblins and ogres. All bore the obvious markings of the new Overlord. Voluptuous bodies, petite bodies, whatever their shape, David could plainly see they were all very beautiful. It disturbed him a bit to see the towering ogre in her bear-skins, with the body of a goddess.
He could still see in his mind’s eye, the demon army of millennia ago tearing through humans with snarling faces and blood-soaked weapons. The towering ogre in full-plate decimating the soldiers with frightening ease. To see the slovenly lust-filled gaze of an ogress leveled at him caused him to shiver.
“Pretty amazing, isn’t it? More like a tourney celebration than a war camp.”
David turned to find the woman who he suspected orchestrated much of his misfortune.
She strutted towards him and the other three. Trixie remained floating in the air, her arms crossed and a devious smile on her lips. Arsa and Yuura however, bowed deeply. David stood firm, not nearly as cowed as he was in their last meeting. Now he had the power of water and earth. Though he told himself she most likely wasn’t a villain, he still couldn’t shake his unease.
Delilah wore the same strange leather ensemble that he had seen her wear the last time, even in the freezing snow. Considering the state of dress of most of the monsters here, he imagined they didn’t feel the cold like humans did. Even now, he was feeling rather frozen. Especially considering Yuura had stopped being his coat.
“Well, Delilah. I suppose I ought to thank you. Though I can’t help but feel you’re responsible too.”
The demon put on a smirk, but to David it seemed very insincere.
“Why whatever do you mean, dear?”
“I find it hard to believe that Ophelia would steal from me on a whim. I think you put her up to it.”
To David’s eye, the demoness seemed nervous. Even though her body language was the picture of confidence. Yuura, Arsa, and Trixie stood quietly at the side, seemingly intrigued at David and Delilah’s interaction. But the interaction was cut short as a white blur galloped towards them.
David was swept up by Ophelia, held close to her bosom and began squirming, uncomfortable at being molested so. He tried pushing her away, but she was surprisingly strong, holding his head against her breasts while crying. When David realized she was weeping, he stopped struggling and, tentatively, hugged her back.
She was wracked with great sobs and was muttering apologies. He could make out only the occasional “sorry” she was so incoherent. He felt bad for the poor girl, and though he was never the type of person to share close physical contact, began stroking her hair in a bid to comfort her.
Finally, she began to calm down enough to choke out words.
“I-I’m so sorry! I-I n-never meant to- for them to- O-oh, I-I’m so sorry!”
David, with some difficulty, let go of her and got back on his own two feet. He looked back up at her blood-shot eyes, still wet with tears. He thought, briefly, of calling them crocodile tears, of accusing her of deliberately seducing him so as to steal the golden blade and in turn the cause of all his recent misfortune.
But, something inside of him told him things weren’t quite that grim.
“Its fine. I forgive you. But in the future, maybe don’t do it again, okay?”
The relief on Ophelia’s face was palpable. She continued crying uncontrollably, but she smiled all the same. David held her hand, and smiled back, trying to comfort her. After a few moments, she was back under control, and rested her forehead on top of his.
“If I may, I believe we ought to come to my tent to discuss matters. Yours included, David.” Delilah said this as she beckoned the company to follow her.
David nodded, as he shivered. The cold getting to him with a chilling wind. Yuura noticed immediately and went back to being his coat. Ophelia seemed surprised at this and was shocked out of her tears. David thought it due to the odd abilities Yuurazha had. Though in truth, it was because Ophelia was more aware of the significance of what she was doing, as opposed to David who thought the shoggoth was merely being helpful.
The troop of six took Delilah’s lead towards a black tent, removed from the others. On it was the emblazoned symbol of a red eye surrounded by gold filigree. It looked very much like the jewels Delilah wore. David followed the other’s inside the tent with a bit of trepidation. He hadn’t expected to meet with Delilah again so suddenly, nor for her to greet them so casually.
The first thing David noticed was that the interior was larger than its exterior. Curtains inside were hung up to make makeshift walls, making it seem almost a proper palace. All along these black curtains the same red eye motif stared down at him. It seemed a great baleful beast watching his every move. Black furs adorned the floor and actual wooden furniture decorated the place. From the ceiling hung a small crystal chandelier, completing the look of a great black palace.
Delilah lounged on a large plush red chair that was elongated enough for three people to sit on if she sat up proper. He was told by Yuura that it was a ‘couch’ or ‘sofa’ and had been invented some many centuries ago. Apparently monsters had fallen in love with it due to its comfort.
There were two more sofas of similar design on either side of Delilah, which the others sat on, Ophelia knelt on the floor on the black furs, not able to sit due to her horse-like bottom half. Yuura flowed off of David and reformed into her demure self as the inside of tent seemed to be well-heated.
David sat in the middle of the left-most couch, with Yuura and Arsa on either side of him, Trixie sat on the right-most sofa, her legs neatly tucked underneath her.
As time passed, David waited for the demoness to say something, but all she did was smile at him, her body outstretched as though she were displaying it. He ignored her, and instead focused on his gnome and undine, both of whom were now formed into small bipedal creatures with indistinct faces.
“When are we going to start?” Trixie asked, mirroring David’s thoughts.
“Lakshmi wanted to join us, Annabelle and the others arrived shortly before David and his merry band did. I was hoping to get everyone up to speed. Sadly, little John is still recovering though he was able to inform me of some very interesting things.”
That caught David’s attention.
“John Vasher is here?”
Delilah seemed surprised that David knew him.
“The young one, yes. His two wives brought him in last night. They moved faster than you, it seems. They told me of what happened. Seems they altered the playing field quite a bit by not following orders. But what are you to do when you’re in love and your beau’s father comes to marry him off to a woman who doesn’t love him? I don’t really blame the dears.”
David furrowed his brow in confusion.
“What do you mean?”
“Well I suppose there’s no harm in telling you. The camp at large already knows. The two kunoichi spies that Naruko, one of my generals, sent to spy on Lord Vasher and his son, fell in love with John Vasher junior.”
“Yes, I know that. Arsa told me. I meant this business about his father marrying him to another woman. Why would that bother them? They’re polygamists, aren’t they? Sharing John’s bed?”
“Yes, but they love him. This woman despised him. They couldn’t bear the thought of John having to sleep with a woman who hated him. I can’t either for that matter, nor can any monster I know. We are romantics after all.”
“I’m surprised they’d be able to tell. Most women I’ve met would love to marry him. He’s tall, strikingly handsome, of noble lineage, rich. He’s even polite and well mannered, and willing to help strangers at significant risk. Very positive traits, of any man.”
Delilah looked amused and turned to Arsa and Yuura for clarification.
“Mistress,” Arsa said, bowing her head just slightly, her tentacles gentling jostling about. “It was John who gave us the coordinates of David’s location. He used one of the crystals. Most likely Hoshiko and Miyako gave him one.”
Delilah smiled. “I see. So you and John are acquainted. That’s good. He’s a good man from what I hear. You and he have that in common.”
Delilah sat up then and crossed her long supple legs in front of her, and stared more intently at David. He met her gaze, unfazed.
“Now allow me to elaborate on the situation a bit while we wait for the others. This isn’t relevant to them, so I believe this a good use of time. The woman he was meant to marry was the same one you were traveling with.”
“Bernice?!” David said aghast.
“Yes. One in the same. It seems she’s Bernice Vanderhousen. Of a small noble house that’s rather wealthy. I’ve fought her mother long ago, a powerful champion. Seems her mother and Lord Vasher senior have been trying to marry their children for a while. I think Silas knew this. I’d be surprised if he didn’t.”
David sat silent for only a second before narrowing his eyes.
“This isn’t the first time you’ve mentioned Silas as if you know him. And now you claim to know Bernice’s mother. What’s your connection to them? And what’s their connection to each other? I feel like a blind man stumbling into a warzone.”
Delilah’s trademark grin vanished. In its place, was an emotion David found hard to place. It seemed between sorrowful and wistful, between pain and nostalgia.
“Once… long ago, there was a cruel, nasty, jealous girl. She looked down on everyone, not because she was better than anyone, but because she wanted to be. She was beautiful, skilled in magic. But not much else.
“She was poor, with no mother, no father, no uncles or aunts. She was raised by her grandmother, a kind woman. But she was not ready to discipline a child in her old age and spoiled her. Praised the little girl for every little thing and ignored her many faults.
“Despite all this, the girl made friends with a rich girl. One who was kind, patient, and selfless. As they grew up, the poor girl grew jealous and spiteful. The rich girl had a large loving family, many loyal friends, and many other wonderful things. But the poor girl had none of that. Being foolish, she thought this was due to the other girl being rich.
“So one day, when a tall handsome elf arrived in their town, looking for companions to aid him on a journey, the poor jealous girl readily agreed, thinking she could seduce and wed the handsome elf. The rich girl, however, noble in her intentions, wished to go as well, because she was well trained with sword and shield.
“They all three departed and went on many adventures. The poor girl’s magic grew, and the rich girl’s skill with sword grew too. Though the poor girl tried to seduce the elf, the elf was only interested in his mission. The elf, sadly, was getting desperate. For he was looking for a way to cure monsterization. And sadly, there seemed to be none. So he led his companions into a very dangerous place, without telling them what he was doing.
“Things went wrong quickly, and the three of them had a falling out. The poor girl had left the rich one to die, without informing the handsome elf. When the elf found out, he became very angry, and left the poor girl alone, to die herself. And she would have to, if not for a very opportunistic demon.
“The demon offered salvation, if the girl should surrender her humanity. The girl accepted.”
Delilah stopped speaking. The others all remained silent, very aware of who the characters in her story were despite the lack of names. David became immensely curious at just how old Delilah was. She looked as if she were in the prime of her youth.
“So.” David straightened his back. “Does Silas know what happened to you after he left you?”
“Yes. He and I met many times after that. I tried to apologize many times to him for the woman I was before. But if he was angry at me before, he is furious at me now. I’ve been tracking his progress in his quest to cure monsterization. I’ve been foiling him every step of the way.”
“So not much has changed.”
“Quite the opposite. Becoming monsterized helped me see for the horrible girl I was. I want to help others, like I was helped.”
“And the other girl… Bernice’s mother?”
“Her great-grandmother actually. She passed on a long time ago, it’s a sad story from another time. Needless to say, you aren’t the only one with a past. But I’d like to talk about the future, now.”
David hadn’t expected that. He hadn’t expected Delilah to once be human either. He sat in silence then, no more questions coming to mind. The other girls eventually broke the silence with small talk. Delilah remained as silent as he, apparently having her fill of talk.
It didn’t take long for others to join them, women he hadn’t seen before. There were four of them. David could tell at once that one was a chimera from her appearance. The other he could tell was an angel of some kind, and of course the snake-like one was a lamia. It was the other near-human looking one that he couldn’t place. Not until he got a look at her ears, a nymph he guessed. A water nymph of some kind.
Like every woman he’d seen in the camp, she was beautiful. They all were. The nymph was dressed in a white and pink silk dancing outfit, that only barely covered her nipples and strained against her bosom. It clasped to a golden collar she wore about her neck, which had a similar heart shaped jewel. Her silk bottom also covered only her nether regions, a thin black string keeping it in place. A strange milky liquid covered all her legs save her feet and inner thigh. It gathered about her wrists as well, and flowed behind her every movement like a long shimmering white ribbon. She had long aqua colored hair flowing like water down her back, dusky tanned skin and green eyes that sparkled like emeralds.
David had just started getting comfortable around all these voluptuous scantily clad women, but she and her companions were really making him uncomfortable. He averted his eyes as all four of them gawked at him. He felt his loins stir against his wishes and Yuura squirm as if she could tell. He crossed his legs in an attempt to sooth his member, but it did little to help.
Before the beauties had largely been in the background, and he’d had emotional ties to the ladies already in the room. But these four women seemed to break through to his inner psyche that he was a single man surrounded now on all sides by beautiful exotic women. He looked at Arsa, Ophelia, Delilah, Yuura in a new light. Even Trixie, he paid more attention to, her budding breasts and slightly flared hips perfectly accentuated by her scarce clothing.
He tried to keep from blushing. But this only caused his ears to burn red. As his uncomfortable blushing continued, the lamia, although wearing a mask over her eyes, looked in his direction.
She wore a silk plum-colored tunic with billowing sleeves that clasped to her neck with a golden necklace. It hung loosely on her body unlike some of the other’s clothing which hugged rather tightly. Despite this, you could still plainly see her curvaceous figure and taut stomach. The mask was purple velvet with gold filigree patterns overlaid on top. Her hair was a shimmering white and held in a long braid. Her snake-like lower half was a bright burnished red. At the end of her tail grew pale white feathers and her arms also grew those same feathers, about the wrist to above the elbow. Her hands were clawed and scaled, though they resembled a fowl’s more than a serpent’s
She was quite attractive, even given her inhuman parts, as were the angel and chimera next to her
The chimera was bipedal, and had only one head, but David recognized it all the same thanks to the lion’s mane, draconic wings, and viper-like tail. Her bosom was large, and her hips wide. But other than that, her face too, was serene and beautifully set, as if it had been crafted by the finest artisan. One eye seemed an emerald, the other a sapphire.
The angel wore white, gold, and pink, though more white than anything else. Her hair and eyes were pink, and her skin a healthy shade of brown. David quite admired the long thigh-high boots she wore, finding them much more attractive than he would have guessed. He recognized her as a cupid when he finally saw the golden bow and quiver on her back. That gave him a moment of pause. Were the monsters on the side of angels and nymphs? How far did this go?
Delilah cleared her throat before speaking.
“David, might I introduce, Lakshmi the apsara, Calypso the basilisk, Annabelle the cupid, and Alexandra the chimera. These are some of the finest people under my command.”
They all exchanged pleasantries, and David returned them. The chimera sat on Trixie’s right, and the basilisk sat on her left. Annabelle and Lakshmi shared a brief look before Annabelle squeezed between Trixie and Calypso. Lakshmi swayed over to David and with an innocent smile asked to sit between him and Yuura. Yuura obliged and slid to the side, allowing Lakshmi enough room to squeeze next to David. He blushed even more, her exposed flesh pressing into him causing his erection to become even harder. He successfully kept a straight face, however.
He would just have to get used to this. Lakshmi leaned into him, a smile on her face.
“You know, Mr. David, I wasn’t expecting you to be so fetching. Delilah didn’t like to talk much about you and our sweet Ophelia.”
“Ah. Uh, Thank you. Lakshmi, was it? You’re rather er… fetching yourself.”
She smiled sweetly then and sat back demurely. Ophelia looked at her with unconcealed anger, and it did not go unnoticed by David. Before more could transpire, Delilah began speaking.
“Naruko and Ivanka are currently indisposed, so for now, we’re the ones in charge of all the next moves. Calypso, please tell us how your mission went. I think I have an idea from the snow, but I’d like to hear it from you.”
“Yes, Lady Delilah. Alexandra, Annabelle and I were able to find the Ice Queen deep in the mountains, in a large palace made of ice. We coaxed her out by approaching uninvited. After defeating her glacies soldiers, she came to defeat us herself.
While Alexandra and I distracted her, Annabelle shot her heart with a black arrow. It successfully thawed her frozen heart and caused her to seek Vasherton to find a suitable man to ease her pain. As a result, the winter has come early.”
“Very good. Tell me, how close is she to Vasherton? We have to make sure she doesn’t attack it too soon.”
“She’s about a week away. We were able to fly down the mountain thanks to Alexandra and Annabelle taking turns carrying me. I suggest we use the time to march our forces close. The time to hide is over.”
Delilah seemed to mull over Calypso’s words. David briefly remembered that he made a promise to John. Did these people know about the artifacts? Should he bring it up? Delilah began speaking, but David wasn’t listening. John wasn’t here, so it might be that he hadn’t told any of them yet. Should he tell them?
He shrugged. In for a penny, in for a pound.
“What about the other two artifacts Silas was after?”
Delilah and the others quieted down, and looked at him, all seemed confused, but Delilah quickly came to a realization.
“John told you?!”
“He freed me on the condition I help you fetch them. Silas had already planned to use me to get them. Then he found out the blade had been taken and threw me in a dungeon. That was the end of that. So, mind telling me what they are and when I’m going?”
There was a pregnant pause.
“I’ll be honest, David, I’m not sure letting you go after those would be wise. While you’ve become quite the celebrity, I think we both know your loyalty isn’t exactly assured.”
“Not assured, but reluctantly given. I thought I understood how things worked. But… I didn’t. I don’t. Just being told the beasts that you fought for years are now all… waifish maids seeking companions, it doesn’t change the way you’ve learned to think. Just like travelling a few weeks with someone doesn’t make him your friend.”
David didn’t like to think of how sour everything had gone. But if he didn’t confront it, then he was doomed to repeat his mistakes.
“Besides, I made a promise, and I intend to keep it. I know you demons are found of deals. I believe I still owe you five questions. Ask me now then if I intend to go back on my word.”
Delilah seemed, for the first time, like a normal person. She looked worried, but David could tell she was trying to give off an air of confidence for her followers. She steeled herself.
“Very well, I’d like to invoke my last five questions.”
Ophelia looked at the two confused, not understanding what was going on. That did not go unnoticed by David, confirming what he had hoped. He nodded calmly and gestured for Delilah to start.
“Your sixth question then. Are you loyal to Silas, Vasherton, or Lord Vasher senior in any way?”
“Is that my seventh question?”
Delilah rolled her eyes.
“Yes, yes. Seventh question. Now answer please.”
“They gave me no reason to be loyal.”
“Are you loyal to me, then? The monster army?”
David didn’t answer right away, instead looking over the faces gathered in the tent. He didn’t know the four newcomers, but he knew Ophelia, Yuura, Arsa. He’d only met the latter two the night before, but with the daring escape and risks they took, he felt a close bond. Ophelia he had spoken to at length while travelling from that decrepit ruin. Silas had saved him then. He hadn’t forgot. But Silas was consumed by fear of these creatures laid out before him. He had jumped to conclusions and tortured what could have been a good friend.
Ophelia had fought on his behalf, saving him from another of her kind. But it had been a monster, no doubt one in this very army unless it was all fabricated by Delilah. That got him thinking.
“That night we first met, Delilah. When you approached me as Ophelia, then later shifted into Sarash. Tell me, is Sarash an actual person, or were you Sarash from the beginning?”
Delilah smiled as Ophelia looked at her scandalized.
“I see. Yes, Sarash is a real person, and I was not the one who attacked you.”
“Then, if you are telling the truth…no. I am not loyal to you and the monster army.”
Everyone in the tent looked at him with a look of astonishment, everyone of course, but Delilah. She simply narrowed her eyes, and the shadow of a smirk began to appear on her face.
“However,” David continued. “I am loyal to my friends. And Ophelia, Yuura, Arsa… they’re my friends. Even John, I think I could befriend if we had time to chat. And they all seem to trust you. Besides, what else am I to do?”
“Do you swear then to fight for our cause, to protect your friends?”
“And what, exactly, is your cause?”
“I fight to free the poor humans of Lancaster from themselves. To gift them like I was gifted. So many struggle, like Bernice, like John, from internal turmoil, from social pressure to destroy themselves and sacrifice themselves for things that ultimately don’t matter. Things like wealth, privilege, social status. These things don’t make one happy.
“I know, I was one of them. Each and every human is burdened by the responsibilities of duty. Not duty to themselves or their happiness, but to ideals that have never truly been examined. I fight for love, freedom, acceptance, happiness.
“The world would be much happier if they realized how much they are desired, how beautiful they truly are, and if they only allowed their societies to love freely. I fight to better monsterkind and mankind through synthesis. I don’t want a single human to suffer anymore. They don’t need to. I don’t want them to.”
David scanned the small group, finding all of them nodding in agreement. So this was their goal then? Toppling human society to impose a new order of nature? He found the statement laughable. Duty was ingrained in human nature and there was no ridding of it. Social pressure is what made good men great and average men decent. He found the concept of ‘free love’ ridiculous. It all sounded like empty platitudes, though he was sure every last one of them believed it.
“I can’t say I agree with you then. But I promised to get the artifacts, and I will. I don’t go back on my promise.”
“Man! You guys are tense! I thought you’d just be a cute face, but you are just plain paranoid!”
Alexandra the chimera stretched her body as she cut into Delilah’s and David’s conversation.
“I say we let the guy help. I can still smell the virgin on him, yet he’s made a pact with two elementals. That takes some potent force of will, let me tell ya.”
David turned beet red at the virgin comment. Had all of them been able to smell that on him? Could monsters now tell that by smell? Or was it just the chimera? He didn’t refute it. He imagined it wouldn’t do much good.
“That is pretty impressive ain’t it sis? Two of ‘em! And without a proper covenant neither!” Trixie said, a big smile on her face.
Delilah looked at him shrewdly before shrugging, defeated.
“Very well. I suppose the dear can help. Unfortunately, I’m afraid you all don’t understand the severity of what he’s talking about. I wanted to keep this close to my chest. This is more severe than any of you know, and a much larger problem than taking Vasherton.”
“What do you mean by that?” Lakshmi asked.
“Silas plans to return all monsterkind to mindless beasts. So as to make it easier for men to kill us.”
“That’s a little extreme,” David said. “He’s trying to cure monsterization. Turning you back into humans.”
Delilah shook her head.
“The majority of us were born monsters, and so curing us would make us the beasts of old. As you knew us all those millennia ago.”
David furrowed his brow in response, but it was not him who spoke up. It was Ophelia.
“How? E-even if he had the s-spear, he couldn’t do that t-to all of us. I-its just one weapon.”
Delilah nodded, her eyes closed and demeanor calm. She gestured to Trixie who flew off to check that no one was present outside the tent. When she returned, Delilah spoke a soft spell barely audible to David. It seemed glowing blue runes flew from her hands in a radiant circle and landed softly in the canvas of the tent.
“What I am saying does not go beyond the room. I don’t need the soldiers to panic. Calypso, Alexandra, you are my trusted generals. Yuurazha, Arsanggha, you are my most skilled spies. Lakshmi, Annabelle, you have done a great deal to further our cause even when you didn’t have to. Ophelia, dear, you’ve become a good friend, and David…” She smiled, “You’ve been through a lot. But it seems you are a man of your word, and you are bound to this of your own volition.”
With a wave of her hand, a black portal with pulsating purple energy opened up before her, and from it she produced the Heaven’s Gold Spear, fully in-tact and repaired.
“I was going to talk of other matters pertaining to the battle that will happen in a few weeks, but this needs to happen as soon as possible. Therefore, I will need volunteers to get the other two artifacts. They are as follows, The Chalice of Eternity, and the Sands of Plenty.”
“What do they do?” said Lakshmi.
“Actually,” David interrupted. “What does the Heaven’s Gold Spear do? It took a piece of my soul, you said, and it cures monsterization somehow, but I’m not connecting the dots.”
“Good questions, dears. The spear works by sucking out pieces of soul that are… mmm. How would I put it? Abnormal? The part of the soul that sticks out the most.
“It strips away special powers and abilities, by taking away some of the essence of a person. It does this by looking at your soul and recognizing the most unique aspect. For a wizard, that’s his magical power. For a monster, it depends. To a converted monster, it’s the recently arrived monster mana. For a monster that has been such her entire life, it’s the Overlord’s special influence that makes her sexy, desirable, doting, loving, etcetera.
“I have been working with it, and I think I can undo damage caused by it, but… Well I’m not there yet. It’s a good thing I have this here, due in part to Ophelia.”
David glanced at Ophelia who looked away in embarrassment.
“But there are rumors of other weapons out there made of the same metal, which is why we need to get the other two artifacts. If we don’t, Silas will, and a lot of blood will be shed. I want to avoid that at all costs.
“The Chalice of Eternity is able to refill itself, eternally, with whatever you put inside of it. Currently, It’s owned by none other than the Ice Queen heading down to her Southern Palace. Aurora Winter has it guarded very well, I’ve heard. To keep anyone from accidentally, or purposefully filling it with something before she finds something to fill it with herself.
“The Sands of Plenty are our other target. They are very powerful, able to replicate anything they touch other than themselves. They have been buried in the tomb of an ancient Pharaoh in the Desert Region. Luckily, I know where, so we can teleport our people in rather than have them walk over a thousand miles. Likely Silas will have some way to do the same. So, time is of the essence.”
David nodded, putting the pieces together.
“So, If I’m reading this correctly… Silas plans to fill the Chalice with the Sands, and then replicate the Heaven’s Gold spear… infinitely. And give them away to the armies of men.”
“Precisely,” Delilah sighed as she twirled the Golden Spear in her hand. “So now I need all of your help. Aurora is very powerful, and I imagine once she gets a man, she’ll stay at her Southern Palace. It will be impossible to take the Chalice from her after that.”
David was confused at that. Was the Ice Queen not a monster?
“Why can’t you just order her to hand it over? I thought all monsters were in on this together?”
The basilisk, Calypso, spoke with a quiet voice.
“She’s outside the command structure of the Overlord. She respects her power, but Lady Delilah has no authority over her. She is her own master. We were able to defeat her with a black arrow, but that can’t be repeated. Once she finds love, her heart will cease to ache of loneliness and she will return to her own affairs, away from the rest of the world.”
“Now just wait a minute.” Said Alexandra, “Why are we so worried? This elf’s got to get there too, right? How’s he going to get past her? I’m thinking we just let it be and let her guard it herself. She can take him. We fought, I know how tough she is.”
Delilah smiled sadly, tut tutting the chimera as if she were a child.
“I’m afraid Silas is much more powerful than you realize. He’ll find a way past her, of that I’m sure. And let’s not forget, he has access to John Vasher Sr. A very capable man himself. He’s in poor health I’ve heard, but I’m guessing even now he could prove troublesome.”
“Well what about the other artifact?” Alexandra leaned forward, her tail squirming in impatience. “The Sands of Plenty? You said they were buried with an ancient Pharaoh. Do we know which one?”
“We do. John Jr. told me shortly before this meeting. They’re buried in the tomb of Zipporah Nas Vashti Lancasta. Its supposedly undisturbed, and the Pharaoh still slumbers. But I can’t guarantee that information is still good.”
David decided to ask the obvious question.
“So why the need for urgency? What makes you think Silas is going to go after those two artifacts so soon? I mean, wouldn’t he be busy preparing Vasherton for a siege? Your illusions are impressive, but they’ll notice their scouts are somehow avoiding a large portion of forest. They’ll piece that together with John’s abduction. They know something is coming.”
Trixie yawned, bored of the chatter.
“It’s obvious ain’t it? He’s a smart fella. He’ll figure out Big Sis is here to do the attackin’. And he knows she’ll be goin’ after ‘em ‘cause she’s got John. Even if they don’t figure he’s a turn coat, they’ll think he spilled the beans some other way. So I’m thinkin’ We need two teams to go after each one at once. Right, Big Sis?”
“Besides that. It’s his best hope of winning the battle. He’ll know the success rate of any human settlement against a sizable monster retinue is virtually nil. So with that in mind, we need to get both of these artifacts as quick as possible. Therefore, we need two teams.”
From there, squabbling broke out among the women, each arguing why they should be paired with David. He was taken aback by how forceful they were, and their interest in general until he remembered the Amazon who had tried to rape him.
David put his face in his hands as he tried to ignore the squabbles.
Chapter 20: Elven Wisdom
Silas peered out into the bay with a solemn expression. The winds bit at his face as thunderclouds roared in the distance. He could hear the rabble even from here, atop the castle.
The whole city was abuzz with the news of last night. Lord John Vasher Jr had been kidnapped, they said, abducted by demons in the night. They even called this early winter a demonic force. They weren’t too far from the truth, Silas mused.
He had been masterfully outplayed, he realized. His months of leads, investigation, and travel were being unraveled far too quickly for it to be coincidence. Someone was actively working against him. He had no doubt in his mind as to who it was either.
This latest kidnapping was a way to bring discord and chaos to the populace, to sew fear before the final strike. It had also doubled as a very showy distraction from the fact that some very odd monsters were rescuing the traitor David. No doubt that boy knew more than he had revealed in his torture session. He regretted now taking it so easy on him.
Silas new what Lord Vasher had yet to ascertain. If Vasherton fell, all of Lancaster fell. Over ninety percent of all trade in the kingdom came through Vasherton. Should the city be taken, then it was very obvious that the rest of Lancaster was cut off from any outside aid. Assuming of course, Lorcaine and Olgrad would even bother to help. The kingdoms were icy towards each other at even the best of times.
He gave out a sigh at the thought of losing another kingdom to the monster realm. The humans were holding out better than the elves, but it was a war of attrition, and Silas knew that unless he succeeded in his plans, the world would end for not just man or elf, but even their enemies. When he was younger he had taken satisfaction in that fact. Now it only brought him deeper into the pit of depression.
The ships in the harbor were slowly freezing in place. The snow and wind had stopped, but the temperatures were still dropping. Soon even fleeing what was to come would be impossible.
Silas turned to the servant, a wiry boy with a face that seemed to remind him of a whimpering pup.
“Lord Vasher is requesting you join him in the drawing room. He wishes to discuss what happened last night.”
“Yes, I’m sure he does. Tell me, who else awaits me?”
“The Ladies Vanderhousen and Father Rupert.”
“Hmph. Yes, that sounds about right. Well then I best not let them wait.”
Silas followed the servant inside. He felt he had done so just in time, as lightning lit up the sky and thunder rolled across the bay. He imagined they were due for a freezing rain.
The castle had taken on a somber tone quite quickly. The servants had loved John Jr. He was kind, patient, slow to anger. With him gone there was little chatter, hushed tones were overshadowed by creaking wood and thunder. The candles lit up the interior in a moody macabre display, making the castle seem as though it were haunted.
Silas, were he a poet, would have ample inspiration to write a ballad for the ages. A loved lord, whisked away in the cover of night from his betrothed… darkness and cold descending upon the land in the horrid deed’s wake. But he was not and he knew that such a telling would only lead these fool humans to incorrect conclusions. This winter was a deliberate strategic move.
As he came down the hall, he could hear shouting. He thanked the servant and sent him on his way. This was not for servants to hear.
“This is all your fault!”
“How is it my fault?!”
Silas walked in, barely noticed. Bernice was standing, fists on the table, angrily rebutting Lord Vasher’s attacks. Silas rolled his eyes. Humans were the last line of defense and they still couldn’t work together. Of all races, it seemed they were the only ones who preferred to fight each other. Even in the old days, according to his research.
Lady Vanderhousen and Rupert acknowledged him as he sat on a plush chair near the door. The two yelling at each other, however, seemed not to notice. He placed his staff up against the wall and cleared his throat.
“If you hadn’t gone on with your inane nonsense I would have stopped them from taking my son!”
“You?! You’re a dying old man! What could you have done?”
Lady Vanderhousen called out her daughter, a scowl on her face.
“Sit down. I will not have you disrespect Lord Vasher this way. Lord Vasher, Silas is here. I suggest we shelve this argument for now and move on to the matter at hand.”
Bernice sat down, her cheeks red, with a scowl almost matching her mother’s. Lord Vasher, as if proving Bernice’s point began coughing uncontrollably. Silas was relieved no blood had come up this time. He admired that he was still up and walking, but also wondered how wise that truly was. When the coughing subsided, he turned to Silas.
“Well then, now that you’re here Silas I’d like to know. How is it my guard found you sleeping in a hole?”
Silas bristled. His defeat at David’s hands had been humiliating. He could not recall what had knocked him out.
“The man Bernice and I had brought into the city, who had helped us recover the Heaven’s Gold Spear, and subsequently stole it, had broken out of the dungeon during the chaos. He’d stolen some of your elementals it seems. A gnome and an undine. He was able to overcome me and escape when I pursued him.”
Silas could see Bernice’s face fall. She had liked the boy, he was sure.
“I see. It seems this man is dangerous. When we’re done here I want you to go give a description to him to the poster-maker. He’ll be wanted from here to Metrion.”
Lord Vasher turned to Silas, his face grim.
“Well, Silas? What do you make of all this? I’m sure you have an idea.”
“Vasherton is about to be attacked. I have no doubt an army awaits somewhere in the forest. I also have no doubt that taking your son, taking the spear, and this early winter are a part of that. Vasherton is being softened right now. Within the month, most likely sooner, we’ll be besieged by a contingent of the demon army.”
Rupert shook his head.
“Oh come off it Silas, that makes no sense. How would they have gotten an army all the way to Lancaster without Lorcaine or Sorvia or any of the other nations noticing? Ever since the fall of Lescatie, the great powers have been on high alert.”
Silas shook his head. The man was right of course, they couldn’t have marched an army from any of the known demon realms to Lancaster. Especially not to position themselves northward like he suspected. But still, he knew.
“Perhaps there are ways of travel that are unknown to us. I don’t know. But this has the working of her written all over it.”
Bernice cocked her head, curious.
Silas locked eyes with the woman.
“A demon who’s haunted me for a little over a century. Well known by the Vanderhousens I’m sure.”
“Why would that be?”
Silas shared a glance with Bernice’s mother, but she seemed uninterested in explaining anything. Did the woman forget her grandmother’s story? Quite sad if so. Ancestors should be remembered, venerated if noble.
Silas explained to the others who he suspected of orchestrating the troubles they now found themselves in. Rupert asked question after question. It did not take long for Lord Vasher to silence everyone with one cold glare.
“I’ve heard enough. Silas, I’ve known you a long time. You’re seldom wrong. I’ll prepare the guard to defend the walls and get our magic barriers up. Rupert, I want every magic-user you have on that wall, I don’t care about their age, sex, or skill. We’ll need all of them. Lady Vanderhousen…”
“I believe it best you leave tomorrow with your daughter. I’d rather you make it out now than have you wait to see if we become a new Lescatie.”
Bernice slammed her hand on the table.
“We can’t flee!”
“Quiet girl. You should be happy. It looks like you won’t be marrying my son after all.”
“I am not just some girl! I am a soldier of the Order! I was trained to fight these monsters, so let me. I can get your son back.”
Her mother reprimanded her.
“Bernice, sit down. I’ll not have you embarrass me further.”
Silas could see the words cut Bernice deep. She chaffed at every word said by either him or Vasher, but her mother seemed to have a good grip on her. She scowled all the same, but she did fall silent and sat down in her chair. Lord Vasher was entirely amused. Any other lord would find Bernice irritating, but the old curmudgeon seemed to enjoy her outburst. No doubt he saw a bit of himself in her. A part that was totally absent from his meek son.
Silas mulled over what he should do. Obviously, the city needed to be prepared for attack, but that alone would only delay things. He needed those artifacts. No doubt he was now racing against the clock. David had known he was seeking two more artifacts, but he did not know what they were or where they were. With John kidnapped, they would seduce him, or enchant him, or read his mind and find out those missing pieces of the puzzle. Silas only wondered how long it would be before they got the information and when they would go out to take those artifacts before he could.
The others were discussing troop placement, numbers, ballistae, and such when Silas decided to speak. They needed those artifacts. They could be their only hope. Rupert didn’t seem amused. He knew what they were thinking, that Lord and Lady would demand they relinquish them and leave them without a copper. But Silas had more pressing concerns.
“So then, what do you propose we do to reach them before the monsters do? I might be able to march a small contingent up the mountain, but the desert is several thousand miles away.” Said Lord Vasher.
“I have been to the desert region, so I can teleport there. I’m not some whelp either, so chances are I could muster to bring maybe two of you with me.”
“I thought teleporting others couldn’t be done? That’s why moving armies is such a hassle.”
“As I said, for whelps, it very well would be impossible. Kill them even. But I’m far stronger than the average spellcaster. I can take myself and two others. I was lucky in that your son gave me a parchment that gives me a good clue where to go. Otherwise, we’d be lost in a sea of sand.”
The Lord of Vasherton stroked his shin in consideration. Mulling over his options.
“And how would the other squad make it to the Ice Queen’s palace? Hope they can travel there on foot without molestation?”
“That’s an option, but luckily, we have a better way. Haven’t we Rupert?”
The clergyman was not happy, but he forced a smile on his face regardless.
“Yep. I do. My lord, I have in my possession a special disk that’ll take as many people as we can fit on it to the Winter Palace. I suggest we use it quick if we’re really gonna do this. No doubt this early snow is because the Ice Queen is coming down early. Might be she’s even in league with this army coming to attack us.”
Lord Vasher nodded, grim-faced. He stood silent for a few moments, pacing the room. The others stayed silent, allowing him to think. At last he turned to them, a fire in his eyes.
“Well then, seems time is of the essence. And I can’t send in too many men in either direction. Both because of the nature of the spells involved, but also because it might weaken Vasherton’s defenses. Therefore… Lady Vanderhousen, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to this tomb?”
For her part, the lady seemed quite perplexed, having been asked to leave the city just a few scant minutes before.
“I apologize, my lady, but I cannot think of another warrior I would rather have by my side. If you still wish to retreat, I understand.”
“Now you want our help?” Bernice scoffed. “What changed your mind?”
“Pragmatism. My soldiers aren’t champions, they aren’t all that useful in small numbers, it’s their coordination that makes them deadly. But we don’t have the luxury of numbers. Therefore, we need two small teams to go after these artifacts. They need to be as highly skilled as possible to ensure success. No doubt this, ‘Delilah’ is doing the same. So I need the best. That includes your mother… and you. So congratulations. If you still want to fight, I believe you and Rupert should go to the Winter Palace.”
Rupert’s eyes went wide at that.
“My lord! I’m… very grateful for your faith in my abilities, but I’m not really the man skilled for this. I really only know healing magic. Not very useful in a fight. Besides-”
“I’ll not have your cowardice today, Rupert. You’re the best healer in the city. Not to mention you’re the one who made those rings….You’ll go to support Bernice. She’ll do the fighting.”
“So then, Lord Vasher, when should we head out?” Silas said.
The distinguished lord mulled over the situation.
“Let us leave in two days. All of you, prepare. This is of vital importance. Failure for us means failure for the entire kingdom
Chapter 21: Rise of the Bicorn
David had found the camp both quite fun and uncomfortable. It was fun because there seemed to be a plethora of rare and unique items ranging from the magical to the mundane. There were strange and fanciful clothes, potions, fruits, staves, and jewelry. But it was also extremely vexing because of the constant flirtatious behavior of everyone in the camp. Some had tried to forcibly kiss him, or even more. He was able to stop them with the use of Nona and Persephone, his gnome and undine respectively. He had named them after they had continued to grow into the same shape as the other monsters. They were not yet capable of speech, nor were they yet fully distinct in shape. But with each day they grew more so of each.
The past two days had been an interesting experience, to be sure. Tomorrow they were splitting up and heading off to retrieve the Chalice and Sands. Yet still, no one had been put on one team or the other. Delilah had said she had already decided, but had not deemed it prudent to inform anyone of anything further. Ophelia had tried her best to accompany him wherever he went, but he often slipped away. He felt as if she were claiming him, and he didn’t feel like reciprocating her feelings. He had forgiven her for her thievery, but he could not forget all the trouble she had caused.
All of them really had tried to get him alone at one point or another. Lakshmi, Annabelle, Alexandra, Calypso, Trixie, and even Arsa and Yuura. Thankfully he was getting wise to how this new world worked and deftly avoided any such situation. Of course, he’d be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy the attention somewhat. He had never had success with women. As a wizard, you were usually awkward and separate from mainstream society.
“Can- Can- Have? Me?”
David looked over to his gnome, Nona, who was now the size of an average woman and shaped very much like one too. Save she was made of soft earth, intertwined with lush green vines. Her hands were overly large, and inhumanly shaped, like dull claws. She pointed at a basket of bright pink fruits in the shape of hearts. David looked to the owner, a tall minotaur woman with bulging muscle and mountainous breasts. She had overheard the conversation and was smiling down at him.
“Excuse me, could I have one of those?”
She took one from her basket and held it out.
“I’ll give it to ya.” The minotaur said, “If you gimmie a look see at what’s in yer trousers.”
David blanched at that. On the one hand, it was nice to have attention, but on the other, you were treated like a whore.
Before David could finish his sentence, Ophelia came out of nowhere and swiped the fruit, putting in its place a sizable bag of coins. The minotaur looked cross and gave her a dirty look, but after a few moments gave a huff and returned to its duties.
Ophelia turned to David with a smile and handed the fruit to Nona. Nona gave a noise of appreciation before eating the fruit. She handed some over to Persephone, who was hungrily eying the whole exchange.
“Sorry about t-that David. S-some of them are still… they aren’t used to-”
“Its alright. How have you been, Ophelia?”
She batted her blue eyes, and attempted to put on an air of confidence, but David could see through it.
“I’ve been good. Trying t-to get over my stutter. I-I think I’m doing better.”
“A bit. I can still hear it, though.”
As they walked through the camp, David was as polite as he could be. He knew Ophelia was, in her own way, attempting to do the same thing as the minotaur. But he appreciated that it seemed more like normal courting.
“H-hey David, I was wondering… I have something for you. Would you mind c-coming with me so I can give it to you?”
“Oh? What is it?”
She rubbed the back of her head sheepishly.
“It’s a surprise. I left it back in my tent.”
David followed with Nona and Persephone trailing behind. Persephone still floated beside him, living water in the shape of a young woman, Nona however strutted alongside him, one of the only creatures here actually shorter than himself.
Ophelia’s tent was as white as the snow that covered the ground, and not too terribly large. David was simply surprised to find an army this large had extra tents. He followed her inside as Persephone and Nona did the same. Inside it was pleasantly warm, the ground was covered in straw, and several barrels and chairs were littered about.
“J-Just wait here. I-I’ll go get it.”
David wasn’t sure where he was going to wait. It was a one room tent. Still he sat on the nearest chair and turned his attention to his elementals who, as they usually did, were eager to brush up next to him whenever he was still. Nona sat on the ground and laid her head on his lap, Persephone floated behind him and began playing with his hair.
He had tried to dissuade them early on, but they couldn’t really speak yet. He imagined they were learning rather quickly through absorbing his mana though. They seemed to be forming a symbiotic bond.
Ophelia had been rummaging through a chest at the other end of the tent, when she finally brought out a white cloak with a furred collar. She came cantering back to David with a smile on her face.
“I made this for you, since you lost your purple one.”
David stood, leaving Nona and Persephone to look up at him, and took it gently. It was quite soft, and as he placed it around his shoulders, very warm. He smiled.
“Thank you. I didn’t know you could sew.”
“Well,” she began twirling her hair, avoiding eye contact. “I really just sewed the fur onto the cloak… but I could have done more if we had more time. I just thought you should have it, before things get rushed again.”
“Hey, you didn’t stutter that time.”
She gave a nervous laugh.
“I guess that’s because I… I’m comfortable around you.”
David gave a half-smile. Ophelia took his hands into hers, and looked into his eyes. Stormy blue meet icy blue, and David remembered the talks they had had under the stars, before that dreadful night. He remembered that she had fought for him, gotten hurt. She really did care. He almost didn’t notice her face coming closer to his own.
He didn’t give it a second thought as her lips touched his. It felt like fire, as if he had spent all his life in the freezing blizzard and only now had he felt warmth. It was a feeling of comfort and rest, yet it was exciting and a call to further adventures.
David was brought out of his trance as Nona and Persephone pulled on his arms. Their lips puckered, and David came back to himself. He looked at her anew, Ophelia’s angelic face was pink with embarrassment, as if it had taken all her courage to kiss him. He spared a look at Nona and Persephone, who seemed confused at what he was doing. Their own cherubic faces seemed to be pouting, as if he had done them some wrong.
He pulled away from them, and looked towards Ophelia, attempting to break the silence but nothing came to mind. She seemed so beautiful in her white lace, her clear blue eyes staring into him. But she had been the reason he had suffered so…
He ran from the tent, avoiding her eyes.
Ophelia watched David flee in stunned silence. Had she really been that bad? It had felt amazing to her. She watched with horror as he ducked out of her tent and his elementals trailed after him. She could feel the tears pool in her eyes.
She knew she had hurt him, but she had thought that had passed. She said she was sorry, she’d spent days making that cloak! She couldn’t contain her tears. What was she to do? What could she do? She fell to the ground, her hooves buckling under the weight of her sorrow.
She had known he might not feel the same, but she was sure she could change his feelings. She had helped him as much as she could in camp, and she’d only taken the spear because Delilah had offered to help her seduce David. She knew it was selfish, but she did it for love…
A thought occurred to her. Delilah had said she would help, but so far… she hadn’t done anything. Ophelia hadn’t brought it up before, but… well, now was a perfect time to remind her. The unicorn stood on shaky legs and left her tent to go find the demoness. It was time for her to live up to her end of the bargain. Besides, it was her fault Ophelia was even in this mess! If she hadn’t stolen from him, David wouldn’t have run away. She was sure of it.
Finding Delilah’s tent wasn’t difficult. Although there was no structure to the massive camp, Ophelia found she could tell her away quite easily. No two tents looked alike after all. People gave her glancing looks, none staying to stare. She did see, out of the corner of her eyes, some pitying looks. She wondered if they could see the tears on her cheek, or if somehow word had already spread about what had happened.
She ducked inside Delilah’s tent, determined to confront her. She swallowed her fear. What was there to be afraid of? She was her friend, right? She had promised to help seduce David, so why wouldn’t she?
Ophelia saw Delilah stooped over a table with several stacks of paper, and a large map of Lancaster, with models of troops and Vasherton set up to help her visualize her attack. The unicorn flit her eyes across the room and found Trixie napping on a sofa. Otherwise, Delilah was alone. As she closed the tent flap behind her, Delilah looked up from her maps, her yellow eyes weary.
She perked up at the sight of Ophelia, and a warm smile lit up her face.
“Ophelia! How are-”
Delilah’s smile vanished as her eyes narrowed. She could sense something was wrong, and flew over to Ophelia with sad smile on her face.
“Oh you poor dear, you’ve been crying. What is it, dear? Are you ok?”
Ophelia didn’t resist as Delilah gripped her hard and held her close. She wept openly in Delilah’s arms without shame. It hurt so much. Why wouldn’t he love her? She would do anything for him, why couldn’t he see that?
Delilah brushed her hair and whispered kind words. Ophelia could just barely make out Trixie leaving the tent through her bleary tear-filled vision.
“Oh you poor dear… was it David?”
Ophelia couldn’t choke out any words. She simply nodded and gripped Delilah harder. Delilah didn’t pull away, but instead started rubbing her back, and stroking her hair.
“Shhh. It’s okay. It’s okay. I’ll make it all better.”
“W-w-why doesn’t h-he love m-me? I love him s-so much.”
Delilah seemed to share in her sorrow, her shining yellow eyes reflected her every emotion. Ophelia stared at the demon with her soul bare, her emotions raw. Delilah wiped away her tears, and placed her hands around Ophelia’s waist.
“Dear, did you want me to help you? Is that why you’re here? Because of our deal?”
Without warning, Delilah brushed her lips against Ophelia’s.
Ophelia was too shocked to turn away. The more she stayed still, the more aggressive Delilah became. Though her kiss with David was brief, it was gentle, relaxing like a warm bath. Delilah was like a raging fire, and Ophelia could feel her body heating up. Delilah’s hands wandered playing with one breast while the other slipped below her waist.
As a subspecies of centaur, many thought Ophelia’s genitalia were located where a horse’s might be. They were half right. The Overlord knew that if that were the case, intercourse would be rather difficult if you wanted to look your partner in the eyes. So, using the power of the Demon Throne, she changed all centaur types to have two woman-hoods, each between a pair of legs.
Ophelia had never had anyone touch her there. Her breath caught in her throat as Delilah spread her open and slid in a finger. What was she doing?! Ophelia tried to pull away and ask what was going on, but as soon as she opened her mouth, Delilah snaked in her tongue, playfully caressing Ophelia’s own tongue. The poor unicorn froze, not used to such a sensual overload. Delilah did not stop. She began rubbing Ophelia’s cunt with her palm, slipping in a finger every other time. She began walking Ophelia backward, into her bed.
With a shove, the unicorn bowled over onto the sturdy wooden bed. She was breathing hard, her face flushed.
“W-what are you doing?! I-I don’t I just wanted David to-”
Delilah placed a finger to her lips, the same finger that had, a few seconds ago, been inside of her.
“I know dear, I know. Trust me. He won’t be able to resist you when I’m through. So just relax, have fun~.
She wanted to protest, but when Delilah fell on the bed beside her, and wrapped her legs around her horse-like torso, she found her strength inadequate. Delilah nibbled at her ear, and Ophelia could have sworn lightning was surging through her body. Their bodies seemed to flow together, and before Ophelia knew it, her breasts were bare to the air, her white silk and lace a pile on the floor.
Delilah’s tail rubbed up against her crotch as both of her hands were kneading the sensitive unicorn’s breasts. Her lips found Ophelia’s a second time, and against the maiden’s wishes, she melted in the demoness’s arms. She felt as if her body were alight, enflamed in pleasure and ecstasy. Fireworks sparked, and stars danced. Delilah’s tongue was soft and delicate, not overpowering or overwhelming, but a gentle dominance. Her tail was tantalizing, brushing up against Ophelia at just the right moments to cause her to moan.
Her orgasm came quickly, her body convulsing into Delilah’s. The demon gave her soft butterfly kisses as the unicorn rode wave after wave of orgasm, the demon’s tail wiggling and squirming against Ophelia’s slit.
Ophelia tried to catch her breath, pushing Delilah away. But she found her hands gripping Delilah’s own breasts, the demon’s nipples stiff in excitement. Ophelia found Delilah had stopped toying with Ophelia’s body as if it were her plaything. With newfound strength, Ophelia began to do to Delilah what she had been doing to her. She nibbled on her ears, caressed her neck, pinched her nipples, and ran her hands across those luscious blue thighs.
In awe, Ophelia found something… odd happening to her. She felt as if her entire being was changing, from somewhere deep within. She felt powerful, excited, dominant. She could feel her soul pulsating, quickening with each breath and sensation. As she kissed and played with Delilah, and Delilah kissed and played with her, she grew more eager, more lustful.
She caught a glimpse of her hindquarters in her frenzy. Where once she was shining white, her fur had begun to change to a lustrous black. Before she could even register what that might mean, she felt a pressure where her horn was, it felt painful, but at the same time… orgasmic.
She screamed as her horn split in two, and she had the most powerful orgasm of her life. Her fur completed its transformation, and her once pure white fur became a dark shimmering black. Delilah pulled back, a devilish grin on her face.
“Wh-what’s happened? What? My fur? My horn? Horns?” Ophelia touched her new horns, black and glowing with an inner red light.
“Relax, dear. Nothing’s wrong. I’ve helped you, as I said I would.”
She could feel in her bones that nothing was wrong. If anything, she felt empowered, as if she could do anything.
Delilah placed a hand on her cheek and pulled her in for another kiss. Ophelia didn’t resist. If anything, she felt eager to start playing again. But this time it was only a brief chaste kiss.
“Have you ever wondered, dear, why you wanted a virgin so very badly? How you could sniff them out? Granted, we all want one, can even sniff out other monster’s mana on a man. But unicorns are special. If they absorb another monster’s mana, they change. They metamorphize. Did none of your sisters share this fate?”
Ophelia shook her head.
“Then you’re the first in your family then? You truly are special aren’t you~” Delilah booped Ophelia on the nose with a single finger and gave a chuckle. “You are now what is known as a bicorn, a very powerful monster that can lure in near any man. With a tiny side effect that may not be so bad.”
Ophelia, impatient, grabbed on to Delilah’s waist and pressed her close, mashing her sizable breasts alongside her own and rubbing vigorously.
“And what’s the side effect?”
“You may be a little eager to share David with others. Produce a sort of… harem.”
Delilah didn’t relent in her sexual attack as her words cut deep into Ophelia’s mind. For some reason, she could feel as if she could share David with Delilah. This felt too good to keep to herself, she knew David would love it too. Even now she started to think of those she had just yesterday thought of as rivals. Trixie, Annabelle, Lakshmi, Calypso, and all the others… she could imagine herself playing with them just as she was playing with Delilah now. She came again, just from the thought of all the others kissing and squirming under her, on top of her, by her side. She felt a small part of her argue that David wouldn’t be able to love her if he had to share his love with others. But that thought was squelched as she thought of him. She wanted these girls, she wanted them bad. But she still loved him. He was her only. She loved him, and she would have him. Whether he had others was irrelevant. They weren’t enemies, they were co-conspirators.
Ophelia returned Delilah’s devilish grin and eagerly kissed the demon with wild abandon as her own fingers travelled along Delilah’s groin. Her finger hooked on a leather strap and pulled, shimming the demon’s womanhood bare.
“I think David is going to like this.” She licked her lips. “Because I know I am.”
And so Delilah and Ophelia made love to each other, in anticipation of who they were about to take for their own.
David felt as if he had spat in the face of kindness and goodness itself. As if he were truly a turncoat and that every sordid thing said about wizards were true. At the same time he felt he was justified, as if she were forcing herself on him and manipulating him into accepting her. He felt angry and guilty at the same time.
Was he wrong to reject her? He felt like he was obligated to return her affections, and that’s precisely why he didn’t want to. Nona and Persephone had made it even worse. Until now he had thought of them as children. Naïve beings who needed him to function. With Ophelia’s kiss, something had changed in them. They began batting their eyes at him, pursing their lips as if inviting him to kiss them.
It made him highly uncomfortable.
What disturbed him the most was they hadn’t done any of that until Ophelia had kissed him. It was if their monstrous instincts had been awoken at even that chaste display of sexuality. He tried to keep them from climbing onto him, but they trailed him like puppies.
Eventually he gave up shooing them away. They weren’t going anywhere. Persephone especially seemed to like to fly in front of him and trap him in hugs. He gently pushed her away with a groan and tried to find some quiet. The other monsters in the camp were beginning to take notice. And they seemed to find his elemental’s affections a little too interesting for his taste.
As he was walking towards the border of the camp, he caught a glimpse of a familiar face sitting by a fire. Alone, a little way from the tents in black furred cloak and fine clothes sat John Jr. His hair was disheveled, and his clothes wrinkled, but he was still quite handsome and seemed rather relaxed. Though David could see heavy bags under his eyes. Curious, he approached. He hadn’t been able to talk to John since the night he had escaped Vasherton.
John seemed to perk up when he saw David approach.
“Well, look who it is! Haven’t seen you in a while. How are you faring?”
“Not bad.” David said as he sat down opposite the young lord. “Well… until rather recently.”
Nona and Persephone sat on either side of him and cuddled close, he tried to push them away, but it seemed only to encourage them to nestle closer.
“Ah. I see what you mean,” John took a bottle David hadn’t noticed before and took a swig. “ I’ve been getting accustomed to them too.”
“Funny. I heard you were already accustomed to them.”
John gave a half smile at that.
“Hoshiko and Miyako are one thing. But just the general attitude of monsters is something else. I’ve never been in a society so polite and generous. They won’t leave me alone.”
“Huh. Well I get catcalled and asked to drop my trousers.”
John seemed genuinely confused at that.
“That’s odd. I haven’t had anyone even so much as flirt. They’ve been very courteous.”
David thought it odd too. John was far better looking than himself. He was tall, well-sculpted, high cheekbones. Did monsters have so different tastes from humans? Then another thought entered his mind. Alexandra, that first day, had said that she could smell the virgin on him. Was that what made the monsters so aggressive? They could tell he was, “pure”? It seemed to fit. John was widely known to have taken the two foreign succubae to wife.
If that was the case, his opinion of monsters changed just the tiniest bit. Though some had been crude in their flirtations, it seemed they respected marriage. Even if it was not in the same vein as the church’s monogamous doctrine.
“I think I know why our experiences might be so different.”
John took another sip from his bottle.
“I- hmm. Well you’re known to be in a uh, relationship of sorts. I’m not. So I suppose, unlike human women, monster women don’t like to go after taken men. Or they do it so subtly you haven’t noticed. They seem to flirt more aggressively than human men though, in my experience. So I find it hard to believe they can be subtle, honestly.”
“Oh I’m sure they can. Though now that you mention it, Miyako and Hoshiko never were. That’s what I liked about them. In my father’s court, among all those nobles, they lied and schemed so often I had no idea what anyone’s true intentions were. When those two entered my life, it was a breath of fresh air. I thank God every day for them.” John smiled wistfully. “Though I do wish they’d let me catch my breath. They’ve been on me non-stop since I awoke.”
“Is that why you’re out here in the snow?”
“You know,” David said, adjusting himself as Nona and Persephone both placed their heads on his lap. “that reminds me. What exactly happened that night? I could have sworn you were to be their inside man during the siege. You had implied as much.”
John gave David an exasperated look that nonetheless had a whiff of a smile about it.
“I had thought so too. But your friend Bernice made a scene. My father was going to marry us that night. If she had just stayed quiet, the siege would have happened long before that. But she just made things worse. She was very adamant. She did not want to wed. While I was alone, Miyako and Hoshiko stole me away. They had some sort of… poison I think? It only worked when both kissed me with this lipstick of theirs. I was out like a light.”
“That’s interesting. Did that come from Zipangu I wonder?”
David nodded. He had already heard about Bernice and the planned wedding. He shook his head at the absurdity of it all.
“Were you and Bernice friends?” John asked.
“I think so. But we hardly ever discussed her. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m older than I look. When we were traveling to Vahserton, we often talked about me and my past. I attempted to ask her about the same but she rebuffed me every time.”
John nodded once and remained silent, huddled up in his furs and drinking in the firelight. David did the same, keeping warm in his white cloak. The cloak Ophelia had made for him.
He gave a sigh of exasperation. Why was this so difficult? Did he like her or not? It should be simple. It wasn’t as if he did not want affection. He did.
“You know. I thought you’d be a lot happier to be out of that dungeon.”
David looked over to John, who seemed to have entered a pleasant drunkenness.
“I am. It’s just… personal problems.”
“You like one of them huh? But you don’t know which one?”
John pointed to the Nona and Persephone.
“No! I mean, not them. I like them, of course, but not like that certainly!”
“…why not? They seem to like you? Oh. Is it Yuura and Arsa? I had a chance to meet them the other day. They had very nice things to say about you.”
“No! no it’s not-”
“Delilah? I’ve heard she fancies you.”
“God, I hope not.”
“Oh? I think she’s quite fetching. Is it maybe… you can’t choose? Never had so many options before and so you’re paralyzed by indecision? Or… hm. You’re afraid of commitment? I understand if so.”
It wasn’t that, he thought. He’d dreamed of marriage and family since he was young. Before he’d accepted that that would never be his fate. He had wanted to be the father he never had the chance to have. He simply never had the opportunity.
“It’s not… how can I put it? It’s Ophelia. That is, someone I’ve come to care about. She’s the unicorn I was tortured for.”
John’s eyes widened, and he put down his bottle.
“I see. Did she reject your advances?”
“No, I rejected hers.”
“It just felt like… like a giant scheme. She saved me from an Amazon early when we met, but that brute was from here. From this very camp! She stole the spear, she was friends with Delilah! I feel like I’m being manipulated, and I don’t know if my feelings are genuine or just… manufactured through dependence. I felt the same way towards Yuura and Arsa, and I’d only known them a day. Its all so convenient and easy. And it just makes me suspicious. Do I really love her? Or do I just think I do?”
John pursed his lips; his brow furrowed in thought. Nona and Persephone opened their eyes and stared up at David in what seemed like concern. David felt embarrassed for releasing his thoughts like that, to a stranger no less. But he felt John was the only person he could talk to. He was the only other human, the only other man, for miles. He felt like he had no one else to talk to.
“You know… I felt similar when Hoshiko and Miyako came into my life. When they approached me, I still believed the church’s teachings. That although monsters were now alluring and buxom, they still fed on the flesh and blood of humans.
“Needless to say I soon found that rubbish. But of course, that didn’t mean I learnt to trust them right away. I saw plots and schemes everywhere. Even though they were quite up front about what they were there to do. They told me point blank they wanted to take the city, and they wanted my help to do it. I said no, like any good lord ought to. But eventually, with… incentive, and not so little gestures of affection I came to care for them.
“I thought to myself that they were using me. And really, they were. But… it wasn’t as if they despised me or felt indifferent to me, or even coveted my station. They really, truly, genuinely loved me. They were using me true. They were using me to take the city. But why did they want the city? They didn’t eat us anymore, they didn’t hate us. It was because Miyako and Hoshiko wanted to share what we had with their comrades. They’re romantics at heart, all of them. Some are crude, others brutish, others are schemers, and yet others are delicate and gentle.
“I think, you and me, we’re too used to the world of humans. We know how things stand in human society. But here? It’s different. I can’t speak for Ophelia, I don’t know her mind. But I think she was just trying to get close to you. And, hey, who knows? Maybe Delilah was too.”
David took in John’s words solemnly, with great contemplation. They were comforting, sensible, something he wanted to hear. He still wasn’t completely satisfied, not all his doubt was gone. But Johns words felt right. They seemed sensible and seemed to stack up to what David had observed. He just had one burning question left.
“Did you love one more than the other?”
“At first. Yes. But in time I loved them both equally.”
“Why did you involve the other if you didn’t love them equally from the start?”
“Because she loved me.”
“And it was that simple?”
“For me. No. But for them? For monsters? It seems to be.”
David and John continued to talk, sharing thoughts on their unique predicament and situation. David was glad to have him. He hadn’t realized how much he had missed just connecting with another guy. He reminded him a lot of his brother. John was more reserved and well-mannered of course, but he was smart and even when filled with doubt seemed sure of his actions.
They passed the bottle back and forth as they got to know the other. David discussed his origins, and was surprised to find John already knew of his millennia long slumber due to Silas. John was surprised David knew of his father’s illness. They elaborated on what the other knew, and before their drunkenness set in too badly, they began to laugh and share more pleasant stories.